by Countryside Alliance

A report commissioned by the Labour Party and edited by well-known environmentalist, George Monbiot, has recommended radical reform of land ownership and management in England.

The 76-page document, published on 4 June, provides an insight into future land taxation, planning, and management policies that Labour might pursue if in government. It sets out plans to promote community ownership of local land through government subsidised buys outs, introduce a land value tax, and extend the Scottish model of ‘Right to Roam’ to England.

The document encourages communities to take over land where “existing landowners are mismanaging it to the detriment of local people”. The example given is Hebden Bridge where it repeats the claim that flooding in the town has been caused by “an intensively managed grouse shoot.” The reference the document provides to support the claim is a blog post written by the anti-grouse shooting campaigner, Mark Avery. The document suggests a Community Land Trust could be established to buy land upstream of Hebden Bridge to “manage it better” but does not give any details on what this would mean in practice.

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jon Trickett MP, said the Labour Party will be “studying these recommendations in detail” as part of its policy development process ahead of the next General Election.

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, commented: “It is a great shame that once again Labour has failed to engage with rural communities when developing policies that would clearly have an impact on the countryside.

“Sensible policies such as greater protection for public parks and support for council owned farms, are overshadowed by a lack of understanding – and in some cases clear prejudice – behind many of the proposals in the document, which would do more harm than good to rural Britain.

“The document talks about people ‘taking back control’ of local land which suggests the completely unrealistic scenario of reverting to subsistence farming. It is a prime example of that populism, which Labour claims to oppose. There are ways in which land ownership and management could be improved, but this must be done on the basis of evidence and principle, and a clear and realistic vision for the future.”

The Countryside Alliance will be writing to Shadow Ministers to respond to the proposals in the document.

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