LAND STORAGE—THE SWEDISH EXAMPLE*

AuthorNeal Roberts
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1975.tb01406.x
Publication Date01 Mar 1975
THE
MODERN
LAW
REVIEW
LAND
STORAGE-THE
SWEDISH
EXAMPLE
*
INTRODUCTION
WI!EN
Birmingham began designing its most recent series of overspill
expansion areas
in
the neighbouring county of Worcestershire there
were, of course, a number of problems, but one of them was not that
of acquiring the land through compulsory purchase. The
city
hap-
pened
to
be fortunate enough to have acquired land in the thirties
and forties for municipal gardening and allotment schemes and by
urbanising the use it managed to lower the cost of the entire under-
taking considerably and thus reduce the cost of the council housing.'
In
these particular schemes the city
is
incorporating both private
dwellings and council housing in a comprehensively designed unit.
The developers who happened
to
have, in their own words,
"
guessed
correctly
"
and acquired options on the land in the area which the
city did not own were only too glad
to
co-operate with the city and
in fact traded some
of
their land for some parcels of city land in
order to implement city design ideas. The private dwellings will sell at
the prevailing market price, not affected in the least by the municipal
monopoly
of
planning and ownership.
In the year
1971-72
the overall price of housing in the United
Kingdom rose by
68
per cent. In the same year the price
of
land
that had received planning permission rose by
100
per cent.a This
was
at a time when the estimated planned land was sufficient for maxi-
mum growth for five to seven years in the future. It was not
so
much
that there was not land available but that the wise owner felt, and
quite rightly, that the price of land was going
to
increase
in
the future.
Perhaps there were among their numbers the greedy speculators
pictured in the popular press but more than likely they were simply
people who, in a growing but highly inflationary economy, saw that
*
This research was made possible through grants from both the United States
Department
of-
Housing and Urban Development and the University of Warwick. The
author would like
to
thank Professor George Lefcoe
of
the University
of
Southern
California, whose work in the field
of
comparative housing law made this article
a
reality, and also Associate Appeal Court Judge
Rolf
Stromberg of the Ministry of
Physical Planning and Local Government, who gave me
so
much of his time and effort.
1
Interviews with Birmingham City Housing and Social Development Office and
City Architect's Office, April
1973.
2
The
Times,
June
20,
1973,
p.
12.
VOL.
38
(2)
121
1
122
THE MODERN
LAW
REVlEW
[Vol.
38
land was one ingredient in the economic process that was sure
to
stay
even with, or well ahead of, inflation.,
Thus, even where the local authority has ownership of the land and
can use this ownership for those desired results of timing, layout and
amenity planning there still is little eflect on the prevailing private
market price
of
homes and private residential building land. These
high land prices affect not only the local authority who must obtaiii
land for public housing and infrastructure investment, but also the
rest of the population who live in private housing.
What is paradoxical about this increase in land prices is that even
if one were not
a
romantic, yearning for Henry George, it is extremely
difficult to deny that
a
good part of the increase in value is directly
attributable
to
the social expenditure of the government, both local
and central. Not only do local governments direct the intensity of use
through planning, and augment the use through the infrastructure, but
the central government also directs large amounts of money to specific
land use areas through its systems of industrial grants and new town
development funding. The central government, through the local
authorities, supplies from 10 per cent. to
20
per cent.
of
the private
mortgage market and recently it even has stepped in to subsidise the
mortgage levels of the rest
of
that market in order to keep interest
rates politically acceptable.
The question is whether there might be some method of using the
local and central government’s prominent position in local spending
and planning to control the upward spiral of land prices and its
grievous effects on housing prices, the building trade industry and
local rates. The only attempt thus far in this direction
has
been the
ill-fated and short-lived Land Commission of 1967-70.3 The Land
Commission, however, laboured under an almost impossible burden.
It was supposed to not only impose an extremely unpopular tax upon
landowners through
a
betterment levy, but it was also supposed to
acquire land that would immediately be freed for housing develop-
ment.
This
was to be accomplished on a limited budget without
antagonising the local authorities who were supposedly planning the
area. It
is
little wonder that, not only did most members
of
the public
view its acquisition function
as
merely
a
goad to ensure the collection
of the betterment levy, but the local authorities viewed it as an un-
wanted interloper seeking to interfere with local planning?
The idea of establishing
a
system which would allow local autho-
rities who do the planning to actually acquire and store land to carry
these plans out, and divorcing this idea from any system of tax collec-
tion does not seem to have been adequately con~idered.~ This article
8
See Whitc Paper. The Land Commission
(H.M.S.O.,
September 1965. Cmnd.
2771); Land Commission Act 1967; Report and Accounts
of
the Land Commission
1968-71.
4
Maurice Ash,
The Land Commission’s Tragedy.” December 1969,
Town and
Country Planning,
p.
542; Sir Henry
Wells’
“Town Planning and the Land Com-
mission Act,” 53
The Town Planning Institute Journal,
334 (1967).
5
For
a summary
of
the current Labour Party approach
to
these problems see
Richard Barras, Andrew Broadbent and Doreen Massey
of
the Centre
for
Environ-

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