The Sustainable Plotlands Association – a proposal | Brussels Blog

The Sustainable Plotlands Association – a proposal

posted by on 13th Apr 2016


The aim of the association is to promote sustainable lifestyles
which also address Britain’s housing crisis.


1. There are few (if any) examples of lifestyles in Britain which are sustainable. For example at the new “sustainable” development at Derwenthorpe, York, the carbon footprints of the residents are several times that which is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. The Sustainable Plotlands Association will promote action research into achieving lifestyles that are sustainable.

2. Housing is much more expensive than the cost of building and the land it occupies. At agricultural prices a plot of land big enough for a house and garden costs £500. Once planning permission has been granted this can easily inflate to over £100,000. This increase is because planning permission is limited in supply. Additionally, many plots with planning permission remain in land banks, until they can be developed at a premium, when home buyers end up paying inflated prices. Windfall rewards go to land owners and developers holding land banks.

3. Traditional housebuilding, with bricks, cement and steel has large embodied carbon, enough to overwhelm personal carbon budgets. Traditional housebuilding is also costly, other methods of construction, off site construction or self build, can be very much cheaper and more sustainable.

The proposal

This proposal is for a campaign to update the updated model of plotland development that was (more-or-less) outlawed by the 1947 Planning Act. Planning permission would not be held in land banks but held by individuals who intend to have their home on their own plot. Individuals should be prevented from holding planning permission on multiple plots. Some organisation could hold planning permission for more than one plot, for example social landlords. These would be carefully regulated.

First step

Whilst the pressures to restrict development are great, there is a great demand for cheaper housing, particularly for starter homes. If the cost planning permission is avoided, simple starter homes can be provided (with land and services) for less than £20,000 – about a tenth of most starter homes today..

We propose that a fund be created to buy ‘plotland options’ on suitable sites. These would be legal options to buy land from landowners if planning permission were to be granted for plotland development. This would be for an agreed price or to an agreed price formula.

These might be attractive to some landowners because unless there is a strong political movement demanding cheap housing through plotland development the options cannot be exercised. If there is a successful political campaign (and starter homes become much cheaper) most of the windfall profit will be taken from planning permission anyway.

Contributors to the Sustainable Plotlands Association’s option will be eligible to take up one of the options held by the association. Rules for allocating (and possibly transferring) these need further consideration.



Postscript May 2017:

An Office of Plotland Development

This is an excerpt from my submission to the Labour National Party Policy Forum 2017

Plotland Development – a new approach

We should add to the planning system in the following way

1. Give registered individuals personal certificates to allow them to use planning permission on individual plots where they can build or commission a house.

2. Set targets for local authorities to provide plots suitable for housing.

3. Local authorities to plan and commission appropriate infrastructure and provision for community facilities such as shops and transport.

This would be a form of plotland development not unlike the schemes that the current government is toying with. Even now, local authorities are required to keep registers of people wanting plots to build for themselves of have houses built for them.

These registers should be combined to form a national register and become the responsibility of a new office in the Department of Communities and Local Government – the Office of Plotlands Development. Its purpose would be to promote and oversee this policy.

The Office of Plotlands Development should reduce development values and see individual house owners benefit with lower house prices. This can be done by

1. Requiring local authorities to allocate many more planning permissions on a provisional basis than is required to meet housing needs of people wishing to live in their area.

2. This provisional planning permission are activated by registered individuals using their personal certificates on plots of their choice.

3. Facilitating finance so that individuals can buy the plots and then commission or build their homes.

If the plots given provisional planning permission significantly outnumber the personal certificates, development value will be controlled by the number of the personal certificates rather than the number of plots given planning permission. Development values will fall.

It will be the responsibility of planning authorities to find sites to comply with targets for housing plots set by the Office Of Plotland Development and to commission infrastructure and community facilities when areas with provisional planning permission have sufficient demand from the holders of personal certificates.

This will change the planning system from one where the planners determine exactly where development is to occur to one in which they plan for alternatives. The alternatives that are realised in practice will depend on the choices of the holders of personal certificates.

To make this work on a national scale, it will be essential that local authorities are not just restricted to making provision within their own boundaries. For example, London residents might like to take up the option of owning their own house in settlements within 45 minutes train ride of central London. Any conflicts should be managed by the Office of Plotlands Development

All of this requires land, which raises sensitive political issues. But…


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