An influential parliamentary committee has been advised to recommend a change to the law which would force farmers to sell their land at knockdown prices.
Councillor Martin Tett, chair of the Local Government Association’s Housing Board, told MPs on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee that the Land Compensation Act needed to be amended so councils could compulsorily purchase land at low prices to build new infrastructure.
At the moment, councils are reluctant to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) because when doing so, they must take into account the site’s ‘hope value’ – the market value of land which has planning permission.
The process is lengthy and each CPO must be approved by the confirming authority, usually the Secretary of State.
Asked how councils could gain a greater share of the land value for new infrastructure, Cllr Tett said: “You would have to amend the Land Compensation Act by removing the hope value you get built into a CPO, because otherwise you are not gaining any of the extra value.
“If you could do that, it would make a significant change.”
Cllr Tett also called on MPs to speed up the process by granting planning authorities the ability to approve CPOs, while retaining the Secretary of State’s role by giving him or her the power to call in the decision if it was deemed inappropriate.
If implemented, the proposals would help the Conservatives to meet their manifesto commitment to make CPOs ‘easier and less expensive for councils to use’.
But Christopher Price, director of policy at the CLA, said the changes would be ‘an anathema’.
“Hope value is part of the value of any asset”, he added.
“It seems bizarre to ignore it in just this one context because the state is trying to achieve something.
“Making a compulsory purchase order is a very drastic step to take. It is effectively the state saying it knows better what to do with your land than you do.
“It is therefore, quite rightly, expensive and time consuming to do. It should not be easy to take people’s land off them.
“Far better to work on a more conciliatory approach where the planning authority, developer and the land owner come together in a joint venture-type model.”