Opinion: Our Green and Pleasant Land – and Councillors’ powers

Our peaceful occupation of land in England for leisure or gardening or amenity is the result of a century of struggles for land access. “He who controls the land controls the life of the people”: and our native soil was alienated to landlords by the Enclosure movement and in Scotland by the vicious Highlands Clearances; and today such risks are still real. Fortunately Liberals began a defence of the people’s land-rights in the reforms of the 1906-1911 Parliament.

More land cannot be produced by landlords no matter how high its price goes. Charging more for it is no remedy for its scarcity, however fashionable such views sometimes become by those who argue for land or site rent increases. The better future lies in fairer access for the majority, not restricting it to the wealthy by excluding or patronising the poor, and fairer access is what the Liberal reforms from 1906 onward aimed for.

The 1908 Small Holding Act marked a turning-point in this struggle for decency. All 8500 civil parishes in England, along with the larger councils where parishes are missing, are now providing, as a result, statutory allotment garden authorities. They have the duty to provide land to the citizens when six or more ask them to look for it, a rare example of truly benevolent legislation. It is land for amenity, keeping hens and rabbits, growing food, conservation, health as a “green gym”. We have achieved a democratic means to protect and build up a great national asset for our communities if we band together and use it. Sadly the Small Holding element has been eroded, but could be restored.

Unfortunately this excellent state of affairs has come under attack from the old “investment finacialisation”, reinforced by the weird “free market” idea that paying more for land somehow creates more of it. The price-system and private landlords cannot create more land, nor can they take into account the social, environmental and health benefits that access to land offers. In spite of noble examples private benevolence has not yet produced the abundance of long-term low-cost community land assets we need.

The 1908 Act restricts eviction by cash-strapped local authorities and others (there is a power to buy the land), and frees us from profit-taking owners. Private provision too often means no compensation for improvements, no security of tenure, no long-term guarantees or community inheritance. The sacred beauty and variety of nature is profaned, community tradition destroyed and the cultivators dispossessed. – And now people are sometimes tricked by the promises of land-banking.

So Liberal Democrats! – We urgently need to use the powers of democratic acquisition of land, as green space and amenity and in fairness, wherever parishes and towns and Districts flinch from this duty and the people want it.

* Michael Parsons has had a long interest in politics since being an active student Liberal in the late fifties and early sixties.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/27292 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDav 28th Nov - 4:37pm
    Doing U-turns harms politicians' credibility. This is news?
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 28th Nov - 4:30pm
    @David Evans If you are a Lib Dem you are evidently in the group who wishes we were permanently in opposition and escaping the problems...
  • User AvatarRoland 28th Nov - 4:25pm
    I also find this article credible and the report certainly deserves reading. Whilst I don't disagree with what has been said, my take on the...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 28th Nov - 4:08pm
    nvelope - Sure wait till 8th May if you are happy to just let it all happen. Those of us determined to make things better...
  • User AvatarT-J 28th Nov - 4:08pm
    While your preferred party, Julian, only spreads sunshine and light wherever it goes, of course. Anyway, regarding the Smith Commission, this does seem to offer...
  • User AvatarRoland 28th Nov - 3:58pm
    John - You raise a very important point about joined up thinking, something many keep forgetting... From a green agenda viewpoint, there simply isn't any...