Tax England’s green and pleasant land – Samuel Brittan Backs Land Tax

FT

The basic point is that the supply of land, with rare exceptions such as reclamation in the Netherlands, is fixed. But because of its scarcity owners can command an income over and above the normal return to the enterprises placed upon it…

Whatever one thinks of fiscal austerity, governments will need a new source of income in future if only because of demographic trends. The elderly are projected to rise as a proportion of the working population in most western countries to a frightening extent. Land taxes of a modest kind exist in several countries, but do not yield nearly enough to replace all other taxes, as envisaged by the 19th-century reformer Henry George. It is only worth the upheaval if it is a major revenue raiser.

Doubtless some of the tabloids would present a land tax as a threat to the ordinary homeowner with a modest garden. We need to prepare for this in advance. Just as income tax is only levied above a threshold, there would have to be similar thresholds for a tax on land. If politicians really want to think about the unthinkable, as they sometimes claim, here is a place to start.

Stephen Greenhalgh – Tax on £1 million Homes would ‘clobber ordinary Londoners’

What proportion of ordinary Londoners own £1million homes?  Ordinary bankers may be

Standard

A new property tax on £1 million homes would “clobber” ordinary Londoners, a Tory town hall chief warned today.

Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, hit out at Liberal Democrat plans for higher levies on more expensive homes.

They have proposed a “mansion tax”, which originally aimed to hit properties worth more than £1 million but this figure was then raised to £2 million.

Alarmingly for many Londoners, influential Tories are also now backing proposals for higher council tax bands on homes worth more than £500,000, £1 million and £2 million.

These levies would all disproportionately hit the capital. Mr Greenhalgh told BBC radio: “We have the fourth highest property prices in the country. A lot of the houses that would fall into the £1 million or £2 million plus bracket are owned by ordinary people still.

“This is not a way to catch the wealthy. It’s a way to clobber people often on relatively modest incomes that may have assets that are incredibly high but not necessarily incomes that match.”

He stressed there were many “long-standing family homes” in areas such as the Peterborough Estate in Fulham, which were bought under the right-to-buy scheme and then shot up in price.

He also warned that new council tax bands or a “mansion tax” would be “hugely expensive” to introduce as it would require a property revaluation estimated to cost £200 million.

Senior Lib-Dems argue that it is unfair that people living in million-pound homes are paying the same property taxes as those worth just over £320,000.

They are calling for higher taxes on the well-off to pay for raising the starting threshold for paying income tax more quickly to £10,000.

But Chancellor George Osborne is set to reject the Lib-Dem demands for a property tax. However, he is expected to tighten the law to stop wealthy people being able to avoid stamp duty of five per cent on property transactions, and instead pay 0.5 per cent, by putting the property in an “envelope” for a company, often offshore.

Conservative MP Mark Reckless, an economist, backed the Treasury raking in more money through taxes on expensive properties by closing the stamp duty loophole and making residents abroad pay capital gains tax on their British homes.

He stressed he wanted the 50p top rate of tax “dealt with”, backed the Lib-Dem calls to raise the starting rate of income tax and added: “We have a child benefit issue we need to deal with. Economically and politically we need to raise money for that.

At the moment we have some of the lowest taxed, highest value property in the world and there is an argument for raising some more money from that area in order to cut tax elsewhere.”

 

Stratford-on-Avon – an Impossible Core Strategy #NPPF

Stratford on Avon has published another draft of its core strategy.

I dislike commenting on authorities I have previously done consultancy work for, I pulled together the 2010 Draft Core Strategy just before the election, but a number of decisions by the District put them on course to an unsound plan.

Firstly with the due revocation of the regional spatial strategy they need to derive a local housing figure.  The RSS figure was 7,500 but it diverted around 40% of the housing need to the West Midlands conurbation as part of a regional strategy of urban regeneration.  At Stratford upon Avon (the district is on the town is upon) the district have subsequently lost an appeal where the developers went so far as to use their own Chelmer model to demonstrate high housing need.  Subsequently GL Hearn were commissioned to estimate local need and they came up with a range of figures up to 12,900 dwellings.  Cllrs rejected these higher figures and opted for a lower in-migration assumption, surprise surprise, of 8,000 dwellings.

So far no local authority in the country has had a sound plan based on lowering of in-migration assumptions to less than household forecasts.  Cornwall tried but backed down prior to submission following representations.  As we have said here on many occasions to pass the duty to cooperate test you will need written agreement from every local authority in the country the migrants would have come from to build the extra housing from the frustrated migrants.  As GL Hearn themselves said in 2011.

  • [it] Falls well short of assessed housing need and demand. It results in lower levels of population growth to the last decade with growth of 6.4% over 20 years compared to 8% in the 10 years to 2009;
  • [it]Does the least of the three options to support the economy, with the District’s labour supply/workforce expected to decrease by -6% over the plan period

How does this accord with ‘Planning for Growth’?

Although we await the final NPPF on this issue the response of the Planning Inspectorate in Wales in respect of a similarly worded national policy has been highly unsympathetic to such treatment of household projections with three plans stalled at the opening meeting.

Secondly they have shifted focus from a a strategy which struck a balance between concentration and dispersal towards a highly dispersed strategy.  I had recommended around 35% to Stratford, 1,700 to other small towns and the rest to other villages, mostly local service villages, based on my SEA which examined a range of options.

Now whilst the amount to small towns remains much the same only 15% goes to Stratford and the rest to small villages.

There are too problems here.  Firstly it isnt justified in the SEA and secondly it is impossible.

The SEA  on the section on the consideration of the options simply sets out the cllrs rejection of the evidence.  It does not set out the sustainability pros and cons of different levels of housing provision and different spatial strategies.  Although it rightly concludes:

The assessment has identified potential adverse effects in regards to climate change. This policy seeks to direct the majority of future housing development within the
district towards rural areas. Increased housing within rural areas will support car dependency within the district as public transport and other sustainable modes of
transport are limited in most rural areas. An increase in car dependency will contribute significantly to the districts carbon footprint.

So the District has chosen an option which does least well against housing needs, economic growth and sustainability and is least supported by evidence.  Have luck with that at the examination.  It wont get past the opening meeting.

But the key issue is one of deliverability and consistency.

The current Draft Core Strategy stes in policy CS16

To preserve the character of Local Service Villages estate sizes should be no more than 2% of the existing housing stock. Consideration will be given to larger schemes if accompanied by a detailed Masterplan and/or are compliant with an adopted Neighbourhood Plan and supported by adequate infrastructure.

Well from a GIS analysis done for them in 2009  if each of these villages built a single estate it would produce  229 houses in total, of 2-18 houses and typically 6-8 houses.  That means to get up to the 2, 240 dwellings planned for these villages they would have to have 9.8 different housing sites each.  Has any development plan in England managed to get that many housing sites per village through in a large district?  What is more no SHLAA or call for sites as far as I know has been conducted for these villages, but knowing them many will struggle past one or two suitable sites.  Many of the villages are in or on the edge of the Cotswolds, some have no shops and one village Napton on the Hill, has one bus a couple of days a week which takes almost a couple of hours to get to Rugby.

What this means is that Stratford are likely to be flooded with applications for small sites in small villages each claiming that they are essential to fulfill the strategy.  Neighbourhoods would have no clear guidance on how many houses to plan for in each village.

By shirking from tough but necessary decisions on good sites around the main town, well away from the historic town centre, they have opened the floodgates to appeal based planning in the rest of the district – sprawl by any other name.

Wrexham LDP asked to be Withdrawn

Planning Resource

A meeting was held yesterday between the inspector and the council to consider whether to scrap the plan or suspend the examination while the council produces fresh evidence.

[the inspector ]confirmed that he will write to the council asking it to formally withdraw the plan…the authority acknowledged that additional work to deal with the inspector’s concerns over housing numbers, provision of affordable homes and Gypsy/traveller sites would take longer than the six month period normally allowed for LDP suspensions.

It will now need to conduct further studies to support the plan. If the council can show evidence that backs the overall strategy of the LDP, it estimates it will be around 12 months before resubmission.

BBC NE Wales

A council’s new planning blueprint is being scrapped due to a dispute with the Welsh government (WG) over the number of new homes needed.

The WG’s planning inspectorate believes Wrexham council should raise its 10-year target of 8,000 homes to 11,700.

A government spokesperson said the council hadn’t provided “robust evidence” for its lower target.

Wrexham council said its plan had “widespread community support” and could take three years to rewrite.

Wrexham’s planning officers will now have to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new local development plan.

The main issue is the number of new homes sites identified in the plan.

Questions were also raised about the number of affordable homes being proposed and whether there was enough provision for travellers’ sites in the county.

A council spokesperson said there would be an additional cost involved in officer time spent drawing up a new plan.

A Welsh government spokesperson said they had been working closely with Wrexham on its local development plan and had been advising the council “for some time” of “the need to back up their plan with evidence”.

“Unfortunately Wrexham were unable to provide the robust evidence needed and have now taken the decision to withdraw the plan,” said the spokesperson.

“Welsh government officials will continue to liaise with Wrexham officers to consider the best way of bringing forward a revised plan that addresses the issues raised by the planning inspector.”

Meanwhile councillors in Conwy have voted to approve its local development plan, but with further consultation on all individual sites where there have been objections.

A further vote was taken on the number of houses which can be built under the plan, but councillors decided this should remain at 6,800.

So it looks like Conway will be the next to hit a brick wall.

“Well, let me state it unequivocally: I love sprawl’ – American County Boss

Think Progress

“Well, let me state it unequivocally: I love sprawl,” says L. Brooks Patterson, county executive of Oakland County, Mich. “I need it. I promote it. Oakland County can’t get enough of it,” he continues, in an essay posted to the Oakland County website. Why should any of us care? Well, Patterson appears to be in a position of power, especially if you live in southeast Michigan. And unlike other people in positions of power who make absurd sprawl-feeding, bike-busting laws — ahem Congress — he’s laying all his reasoning out on the table.

To Patterson, sprawl is an issue of freedom.

Let’s stop the hysteria and honestly ask ourselves what is sprawl? “Sprawl” is the unfortunate pejorative title government planners give to economic development that takes place in areas they can’t control. In reality, “sprawl” is new houses, new school buildings, new plants, and new office and retail facilities. “Sprawl” is new jobs, new hope and the fulfillment of lifelong dreams. It’s the American Dream unfolding before your eyes.

In fact, opposing sprawl is un-American.

Today, if a company pulls up stakes, abandons a suburban location and moves into the central city (often doubling or tripling the commute time for its employees), the anti-American Dream doom-and- gloomers call it “economic revitalization,” and they praise it.

But if a company, a residential builder, or a family moves out into the suburbs, it’s condemned by the anti-American Dreamers. “It’s sprawl,” they hiss, “it’s bad.”

Patterson’s view of history is pretty straightforward. Maybe he knows something countless scholars of the city don’t? (After all, everyone knows the most simplified view of history is usually the right one.)

Sprawl did not cause the decline of the cities. Cities declined because they squandered their assets. High crime rates, high taxes, failing schools, foul air and a lack of open green spaces forced people to move.

Federal subsidies of highways and car culture? Redlining and white flight? Tax structures favoring sprawl while penalizing urban cores? Poof! Sprawl now happened because cities are gross:

Sprawlers, like me, simply wanted a home with green grass on a safe, well maintained street, a quality neighborhood school that actually educated their children, a good job, nearby parks and recreational spaces, and a local government that actually delivers the services their taxes paid for. In other words, they wanted a place like today’s Oakland County.

It’s a minor miracle that up to this point in his piece, he has yet to use the word “undesirables.”

And now, prepare yourself mentally for the coup de grace.

And the next time somebody rubs your face in the word sprawl, take a long, hard look at that person.  Too often you will see some limousine liberal who long ago fled our cities. Now, they want others to go back and take their place. They want to use the power of government to force you back into a city, or a neighborhood, or a housing type they chose not to live in themselves.

What about the mass-transit riding elites who live in dense, walkable neighborhoods that nurture their sense of community and connectedness while reducing their impact on the planet?

I guess they don’t exist. Or maybe L. Brooks Patterson can’t find them in the vast parking lots that pass for public spaces in his brave new Oakland County.

PAS – Neighbourhood Planning will increase housebuilding ‘audible snorts of laughter in the room’ #NPPF

The PAS Blog has a good piece on current councillors attitudes to government reforms, heres the highlight.

 many don’t think the introduction of a new process and tier of plan-making was necessary, and more aren’t convinced that it will result in significantly more house building than would have happened otherwise.  When you explain the logic – that more involvement, more influence, lower level decision-making etc should lead to more ownership and less opposition – well, there are audible snorts of laughter in the room.

Common Sense Previals on EU Habits Directive on Bicester-Oxford Rail Link

The Government reviewing the application of the EU habitats directive for supposedly holding up growth we have argued on here that all that is needed is a common sense approach to the application of the caselaw on the directive on how to handle conflicts between economic growth and habitat protection.

In this case the

The order … would create a second link between Oxford and London. The existing link goes via Didcot and arrives into London Paddington.

The improvements would involve building a station at Water Eaton, improving Oxford, Bicester Town and Islip stations and restoring much of the double track between Oxford and Bicester Town that was removed in the 1970s. Supporters hope that the Oxford-Bicester line could eventually form part of a revived Oxford to Cambridge service called East West Rail.

Last November, an inspector recommended refusing the order for the Oxford-Bicester-London Marylebone link following a public inquiry because of the risk to bat roosts in Wolvercote Tunnel, Oxford, as well as to great crested newts.

But since then, according to the decision letter, operator Chiltern Railways and watchdog Natural England have reached an agreement on mitigation measures to protect both species.

In the letter, Greening said that she was “satisfied that the benefits of the scheme would outweigh by a considerable margin its residual adverse effects”.

The commission issues guidance on cases like this the following must be established:

1. The alternative put forward for approval, is the least damaging for habitats, for species and for the integrity of the Natura 2000 site, regardless of economic considerations, and that no other feasible alternative, exists that would not affect the integrity of the site. &
2 There are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including ‘those of a social or economic nature’.

3 Once the lack of suitable alternatives and the acceptance of imperative reasons of overriding public interest are fully ascertained and documented, all compensatory measures that are needed to ensure the protection of the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network have to be taken. Therefore, compensatory measures should be considered only when the application of other safeguards, such as mitigation measures, is not sufficient. The compensatory measures adopted must always be
communicated to the Commission.

This assumes that in cases of scientific doubt as to adverse effects the precautionary principle is applied.

Of course the judgement might be much harder in cases such as Falmouth Harbour where there is considerable disagreement as to the extent of harm and whether the ‘overriding’ test applies.

The EU guidance rider ‘regardless of economic considerations’ seems to be inserting language into the directive which is not there.  Regulation 62 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 simply refers to ‘no alternative solutions’ without the economic rider, although guidance issued by the old MMO stuck to the commission line.

Other assessment criteria cannot overrule ecological criteria at the “no alternative solutions” stage. Although social, health and economic arguments may be used at the IROPI stage, at the “no alternative solutions” stage the only test is an ecological one. The ecological test relates to the conservation objectives of the European site, the site’s integrity and its contribution to the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network.

This seems to be based on commission guidance on the management of the Natura 2000 network rather than the directive or subsequent caselaw.  In the Leybucht Dykes case it was held that economic considerations are irrelevent in determining the boundarories of a protected site but as far as im aware its relevence under article 6(3) has not been tested.

Angus Evers of SJ Berwin has a very good piece on the  Habitats Directive review.

2010

Welsh Councils Told to Increase Housing Numbers – Planning

Heres a story I tipped Planning off on .

Wrexham County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council have had the examinations of their local plans halted over a failure to justify departing from the Welsh government’s 2008 housing projections….

Meanwhile, the Welsh government has told Monmouthshire County Council to review housing numbers before it submits its local plan…

Development experts said that inspectors are taking a harder line with councils on housing figures in the emerging LDPs.