Commission: put communities, not profit, at the heart of new approach to land
England’s first commission to review the use of land for community wealth building, established by Liverpool City Region (LCR) Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, today releases its inaugural report. The independent Commission has brought together experts on community assets, planning, land rights and reform and challenged them to think imaginatively to develop radical recommendations for how LCR can use publicly owned land to make it the fairest and most socially inclusive city region in the country.
The report recognises that land is the fundamental basis of wealth for communities, and that attempts to ensure that communities benefit from fairer ownership and stewardship models for land face significant challenges in England. The Commission took a nimble approach, drawing on the expertise and experience of its members, to produce action-focussed recommendations to advance more generative forms of land ownership and stewardship, including:
• Develop a long-term vision, in which all land use is progressively directed towards achieving social well-being and environmental sustainability.
• Establish a permanent land commission for LCR, to lead this work.
• Initiate a citizen observatory for LCR, to enable citizens to monitor progress and generate innovative ideas to inform land policy in the City Region.
• Create a new commons for LCR, a body to identify vacant underused land and property and make it available for community use.
• Advance progressive use of the planning system, including allocating land for socially valuable uses and reinvesting for collective benefit.
• Invest in green infrastructure, including exploring the creation of market garden cities and enhancing funding for public parks.
• Set up an open access online map of publicly owned land in LCR.
• Publish an annual report on land ownership and use in the City Region.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“Since I was elected, I’ve been working to make our region the fairest and most inclusive economy in the country. Community wealth building, which gives local people greater control and keeps money in the local economy, is central to those efforts.
“In the post-pandemic world, my focus is on building a region that is greener, fairer and stronger. I think that making better, more productive use of land can be a really important part of that.
“I said when it launched that the Commission would not just be a talking shop that gave some vague recommendations at the end. I’m delighted to see that Commissioners have taken those words to heart and produced some challenging proposals; now my job is to act on them.”
Councillor Graham Morgan, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Housing and Spatial Framework, said:
“It is very exciting to see the radical proposals put forward by this, England’s first Land Commission focused on how we use land for community wealth building. This kind of radical thinking is vital in helping us to address the challenge of making the best possible use of publicly-owned land, as we strive to become the fairest and most socially inclusive city region in the country. I applaud the Commissioners for producing a really valuable piece of work.”
The Commission has been chaired by leading think and do tank the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and met for five online meetings between September and December 2020. The final report was produced by CLES based on the output of the meetings.
Neil McInroy, Chief Executive of CLES and Chair of the Commission, said:
"Land must work to serve the needs of communities, not simply the need for financial return. Liverpool City Region is already home to a rich array of community-led models of land ownership and use. These represent a powerful alternative to a narrow understanding of land as a financial asset, which has been dominant in the UK for too long. At the heart of the Commission's recommendations are the drive to realise the full social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits of land – which in the end belongs to all of us. Leading this Commission has been a truly informative process and we heartily recommend it to other places who want their land to serve the needs of the whole community."
Commenting on the project, Creative Economist Erika Rushton, one of the commissioners, added:
“The land and property market in the Liverpool City Region is broken. By increasing community and social ownership, the people who live and work in the region can retain and reinvest more of the value they create. We can begin reparation for those who have been systematically excluded and stop wealth being extracted from our communities.”
For further information, visit: cles.org.uk/our-land