Our postgraduate students have added to my concerns over the Localism Bill’s proposals for Land of Community Value. We worked on the Bill in their Rural Land Policy module, looking at its proposals from the point of view of both landowners and civic/amenity organisations.
We were all concerned about the lack of finer detail: just too much is left to future regulations.
Will the new measure encourage landowners to neglect land? This was a concern of one group who felt that landowners may be discouraged from maintaining land of potential community value to lessen the chance of it being designated.
Another group pointed out that if the proposals are to provide local groups with a realistic opportunity to purchase land of community value, there will need to be a mechanism to provide funding.
A particularly challenging perspective was taken by one group who compellingly argued that the proposals could be socially-divisive. Residents in well-heeled areas will use the powers to protect local facilities. They are far more likely to have access to the capital needed for a purchase when this chance does arise, and the professional ability to set about organising a purchase, subsequent management and raising finance. Contrast this with run down areas where local facilities may be just as, or even more, important. Another version of the postcode lottery!
The students have been with us for a week on a Rural Land Policy and Development module as part of their MSc studies. We were joined by 7 students on the European Food Masters programme, a truly international bunch with individuals from France, Peruvia, Guatemala and Afghanistan. They arrived last week from Italy where they have been studying for 6 weeks. Before that they were in France, and after a couple of months with us they will be on their way to Spain.