Local councils to gain power to develop land for less under reported Labour plans

Labour proposes to boost housebuilding through reforms to land valuation under compulsory purchase orders, according to reports, as details have also emerged of the party’s intention to block all new oil and gas exploration in the UK if successful at the next general election.

The Labour Party’s policy proposals in green energy and development began to take further shape this weekend as reports emerged that the party plans to force landowners to sell land plots for much less than their potential market price, according to reports in national newspapers.

According to the Financial Times, party officials have said that the shadow levelling-up secretary, Lisa Nandy, plans to reform how land acquired by local councils through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) is valued. The party would reportedly do so by legislating that local authorities can buy land at its agricultural value - as opposed to its potential value with planning permissions. 

The difference between the two types of land classification is enormous. According to a research paper published by the Centre of Progressive Policy in 2018, land awarded planning permission is worth more than 275 times its agricultural value. This means that agricultural land valued at £22,520 per hectare could on average increase in value to £6.2m per hectare with planning permission, according to the paper. 

One Labour aide is reported to have said: “We want to tilt the balance of power. It feels like the scales are tilted towards… landowners, we want to re-tilt it towards the communities that want to see more houses built”.

Earlier this month, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that if successful at the next general election the party would empower local councils to build on green belt land in more circumstances than they are currently able to. 

The announcement prompted some mixed reactions from the environmental sector, with CPRE, the countryside charity, telling the BBC that "small scale developments of genuinely affordable homes" were needed by rural communities, but that brownfield should be used first. 

However, the think tank Green Alliance’s executive director, Shaun Spiers, welcomed potential reforms to the value at which local authorities can purchase land as “good news”.

The news follows separate reports that Labour has confirmed plans to block all new domestic oil and gas developments if elected, as well as limiting any borrowing for investment to green schemes. 

A party source is reported in the Guardian as saying: “We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea. They will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged; they undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets.

“But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.”

The newspaper reported that Starmer is expected to formally outline the proposals on a trip to Scotland in June.

Two weeks ago, a leaked document set to inform Labour’s manifesto - seen by ENDS - mooted plans to extend national parks, strike off water company chiefs who “continually breach and ignore their responsibilities”, and to get renewable energy planning decisions down “from years to just months”.