Barker Review of Housing

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon Sep 1 14:33:06 BST 2003

Barker Review
Barker Review of Housing Supply,
1 Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ

A definition is required for 'Affordable Housing'
Houses already are 'affordable' if this means at £60,000 for a new 3 bed 
dwelling. Many companies advertise kit houses around this price, conforming 
to all the building regulations and thousands are erected annually in UK.

The cost of a typical house.
A sixth of an acre of agricultural land may cost £500.  Materials for a 3 
bedroomed house may cost £50-60,000, Contractors' labour costs perhaps 
£15,000, yet houses costing £75,000 to build are selling for £250,000, & 
Examples cover the 70 hectares which formerly were the Poundbury and Middle 
farms at Dorchester belonging to the Prince of Wales.  The land received 
planning permission for houses in 1991. Valued on 31st Jan at
£500 per acre,overnight it  increased to £360,000 per acre. This is geared 
again as houses designed for moneyed people are built so that the property
increases from a value of £500 per acre to £2.1 million per acre (see 
Poundbury example at 6 dwellings per acre.)

The difference between the materials + construction cost and the selling 
price is the site cost + the profit margin. The latter in turn is marked up 
to be in line with the site cost.

Land Speculation and Monopoly
It  is the aim of land speculators systematically  to acquire the 
agricultural land which surrounds every village, town and city in the 
country.   This process has virtually been completed in UK, leaving this 
country with one of the  biggest concentrations of land ownership and with 
the most volatile and high house prices.

Land is always a monopoly: land is the only  monopoly
This is known by every land holder but escapes the grasp of the Monopolies 
Commisson as it does the general  population, also landless..  He who owns a 
field has 100% monopoly of that piece of land. Land is not interchangeable. 
A village in Hertfordshire cannot expand into the Cheviot Hills.

The town planner, in trying to meet the growing needs of the community,
has no option but to allow expansion into  land adjacent to the existing 
town.  Access to a field is 100% determined by the ownership of the adjacent 
fields. The illogical anomaly exists that the Monopoly Commission is charged 
with investigating the provision of goods and services but not of the only 
true monopoly that of land.   It could be argued that the provision of land, 
  rights of access etc are a service and therefore under the remit of the 

History of the people's commons and the House of Commons
In 1830's an unrepresentative Government enabled the exclusion of the 
landless, that is the people, from the use of Common Land by sponsoring a 
General Enclosure Act which enabled any land speculators with capital, by 
fulfilling not-onerous conditions to privatise formerly Commons land and 
acquire it as his property  without purchase.  History has absentmindedly 
failed to record this  National Revolution, that of  the  Landowning 
Dictatorship (landownership was a qualification  for voting for the 
parliament) in a country which remembers the Peasant revolt of 1381
(These conditions were not temporary and in many instances the changed use 
of that land to-day  makes it questionable whether the  present owner has 
forfeited rights conferred by the Act.)

    The rapid effect was to deprive  the general population
of  free access to the countryside, of   building land, grazing, food 
gathering and  collection of fire making and building materials.
   'Commons' were not comparable with present-day, often picturesque, 
village greens used for recreation , but were the vital resource of rural 
and therefore the generality of the people.   Without the village common  
even a small farmer could not survive since his plough team of oxen required 
a vast  common to provide otherwise non-existent pasture: commonless meant 
firewoodless, rabbit pie less, timber less, herb less, nut less, medicine 
and for the widow,goose-less and goat-less, for some home-less and for 
others life-less.
   Thus the present land monopoly by the capital owners is not an ancient 
relic of our history but a modern  initiative of  a priveleged  elite 
turning a natural resource to a private domain.    (Read John Clare on the 
enclosure of Helpstone Common)
   This discriminatory social engineering has not been re-engineered by the 
representative governments which followed the Reform Act of the nineteenth 
century and the womens' franchise act which is as recent as 1918.
  The present land ownership pattern has  the benefit of neither an ancient 
lineage or modern utility It is not equitable, sanctioned by democratic 
aclaim nor is it immutable.
It has a baleful effect on everything surrounding the building of houses .-  
type of houses built (e.g. middle class estates) who builds the houses 
(Large construction companies), who owns the land (investment corporations, 
insurance companies, plc's,  
all accessing   public capital )  also the 
inheritors of the priveleged political class and crucially it effects the 
selling price of the resulting restricted supply of houses.   All are 
effected detrimentally by this monopoly.  The result is that the price of 
houses is determined not by the cost of building but the monopoly of actual  
and potential building land.
Firstly the restriction of the supply drives up the price.
The second factor driving up the price of houses is the consequent 
speculation in the price of land treated as a commodity not a natural 
The third factor is speculation in the rising price of existing houses.
The  fourth factor is the rising demand for houses from an increasing 
constituency of would- be home makers.   This is a minor factor compared 
with (2) and (3)
A fifth factor is any restrictions on the granting of planning permission.
A sixth factor is the acquisition of second homes, some for renting out.
The six elements above have different constituencies.
Different value judgements can be attached to these factors.
Different measures can be taken to relieve  these pressures as appropriate.

The resulting anomaly
It is the central concern of the tiny minority who own  the land of Britain 
, and are insulated from housing needs to seek to benefit from the needs of 
the majority who have need of housing.   The people's need generates the
value of all the houses and the tiny minority owning land feed on this need.
Why should the Prince of Wales cause houses to be built to sell at £350,000 
Because the geared-up  price of land is out of the reach of those living on 
income and is available only to those with substantial capital , self build 
housing remains , in UK, the solution of a tiny minority.   In other 
it is a viable option which many take advantage of to solve their housing 
needs.  Historically in Britain it was  and world wide it is the preferred 
means of solving housing needs. Not th eleast reason is that the labour cost 
of  a self build house is nil and the  profit mark up is equally attractive.

An incidental result of land cost being out of reach of income earmers is to 
drive them into the arms of the banks, building societies and money lenders.
Interest payments  dictate building quickly and militate against part time 
builders and if the site cost does not prove an insurmountable obstacle, it 
will prove impossible to build in one's spare time with the interest 
payments dictating quick completion

Popular myths about house building
'There is a shortage of land'   Anyone who has driven to Edinburgh from 
London must see that there are miles and miles of unpopulated land and also 
unproductive  land..

Britain is  'overcrowded'   To anyone  who has seen the intensive use of 
agricultural land in Indonesia or the Himalayan kingdoms , Britain  seems 
underused and largely deserted.

'Brown field sites are preferable' These are not necessarily preferable to 
green field sites. To city dwellers deprived of fresh air , green vistas and 
recreation space a vacant city site is of more utility as a green lung- park 
or recreation ground than is  the equivalent area to the world at large in a 
rural location. Thousands of acres of farm land are unproductive and 
expensively maintained as 'set aside land' on which no crops can be grown.

'Changing the status quo' is 'Social Engineering'
The Enclosure Acts were anti social Social Engineering, and Social 
Engineering by an unrepresentative government.  The Factory Acts,
The Town and Country Planning  Acts , the Education Acts, the National 
Insurance Acts and the National Service Acts etc were Social Engineering.

Britain needs its farmland for national  security and  self sufficiency.  
Britain is not nor ever has been  self sufficient in food. It is not valid 
both to seek national security by joining EC and through ring fencing 'farm' 
land from other development.
Before we acknowledge self sufficiency in food as a national target we 
should query the advisability of importing out of season vegetables and 
exotic fruits and basic foods from abroad- potatoes from Cyprus and mutton 
from New Zealand.    CAP pays farmers not to grow food on hundreds of 
thousands of acres.  CAP pays farmers to grow non food crops.  Intervention 
Board destroys tons of food annually. We grow and fish £billions for our 

"HMG will, can, should, create full employment"  In a no- longer industrial 
society?  The farmers stole (and steal) employment when they dismissed 
agricultural workers in their hundreds of thousands, and intensified 
ploughing,drilling,  spraying and harvesting,into the work typically, of one 
  tractor driver servicing hundreds of acres. Whilst clinging unproductively
to land no longer needed for food production, and all this at public 
The farmers banished their best customers when  they banished the 
farmworkers and delivered themselves into the hands of the supermarkets.
Farmers now, encouraged by the government, are misusing the land as 
un-needed golfcourses, dirt tracks for off road vehicles,riding trails,and 
any other money making activity, maintaining their priveleged position 
accessing public money as agriculturalists and bolstering the land monopoly 
and incidentally despoiling the landscape with jerry built industrial 
prefabricated buildings.

The present blighted housing landscape.
The present land regime which delivers housing provision into the hands of
highly capitalised ,profit motivated construction companies and determines 
the character of the new houses we see built will meet the ability to borrow 
  of the middle classes not the  needs of those with the worst or no 
housing.  Architecturally vacuous housing schemes,'estates' of predictable 
brick houses built on postage stamp plots, in segregated car owning 
communities, with no acknowledgement of the local  vernacular in  variety, 
size, style or materials such housing blights the countryside.

The possibility is to free the imagination, experience, personality and 
ingenuity of individual self builders.  This is the way that the countryside 
we know and respect was formed.    What possible objection could there be to 
reproducing the parks, village green, high street, 'shambles' etc of Saffron 
Walden in Essex, creating another Abbottsbury  in the countryside of Dorset 
or a reproduction of Swanston village on the south of the Pentland hills of  
Scotland?- in all of them allowing the spontanaity of size, materials,and   
type which give our countryside and its regions their  character    This 
could be done by radically relaxed planning restrictions and greatly 
increasing building regulations.

The Great Wens
Large cities, especially metropoli are a very recent innovation.  They were 
a response to driving people off the land under the Enclosure Acts of the 
1800's and the simultaneous onset of  the Industrial Revolution requiring 
large work forces living adjacent to manufactories.   There are many reasons 
to believe that Cities are redundant.
Increased motor car use and parking in streets  not designed  for them, the 
saturation of car ownership ,air pollution, street crime, disease, and the 
pressure on public services, and the concomitant sucking in of commuters , 
the attraction there of immigrants 

Many factors suggest that cities are redundant, their structure crumbling 
and their original role has died along with our industrial past and that  
future  trends will make city life intolerable.

The unthinking , uncritical apathy by HMG at  the concentration of 
population in the Souith East and in cities in general, fuels the demand for 
housing in that area and suffers from the dearth of land  to meet the 
expansion needs of the concentrated population.   Trying to meet these needs 
in the South East is self defeating as it further increases the problem of 
the  growth of the city exacerbating the anomalies.

The location of the seat of government attracts population increase.
There is every reason to locate the administrative centre of national 
government out of London.   The South East of England is overcrowded.

The restriction on the individual's right to solve his housing needs by self 
build can be seen as a restriction on his human rights.  It can also be  
as an illogical anomaly in a government which aspires to increasing 
employment.  Self build offers a means of giving useful employment to those 
who need it, increasing the housing stock and providing houses at the lowest 
possible cost.
Fiscal measures to discourage speculation in land , to encourage self 
building, discourage speculation  in house prices,
the Relocation of central government,
Liberalised Planning laws and toughened up building regulations
Reduction of CAP grants fueling land rents and returns,
Repeal of the discriminatory  Enclosure Acts and revision in the light of 
the demonstrably redundant need for enclosing marginal land
HMG have an important educative and  informative role in exposing the 
monopoly of the predatory land speculators, in encouraging design of 
traditional local building designs and town plans.  The reference of land 
transactions to the Monopolies Commission is among  the steps which are 
needed .

A misinformation campaign by the land lobby.
Highly interested land monopolists constitute perhaps the most effective, 
organised, vocal and professional lobby which influences both the government 
and the media.  This includes NFU, CLA  and CPRE.  The farmers who despoil 
the landscape with prefabricated buildings, pollute the streams with 
effluent and the air with chemical sprays  proclaim themselves providers of 
"Beautiful countryside care of British farmers."   CLA spokesmen, typically 
poorly educated and unqualified  regularly claim themselves self appointed 
'guardianship of the countryside' .  Farmers to-day claim that they (not the
boys who gathered stones for sixpence a week or the Tolpuddle Martyrs who 
refused to reduce their wages below sixpence per day, they the farmers 'made 
the countryside' we love to-day (conveniently forgetting alike the Anglo 
Saxon deforesters and the Middle European labour gangs, and that the miles 
of hedges planted 100 years ago have been ripped out within our lifetime.    
'Safeguarding the countryside' also includes shooting things  that dig, 
crawl or fly and when it is convenient ploughing up stone age barrows and 
sensitive scientific habitats.

This puts a responsibility on HMG to inform the public in general how the
privileges accorded to land holders are being respected.

                                                  Royal Institute of Town 
Planners Evidence reviewed
Without a reappraisal of the present provision of house building the 
'crisis' will not be avoided.
The replacement of National highly capitalised Building contractors by the  
self buld builder solving his own housing needs  locally  as the main 
provider of houses should be the aim of the Housing Minister.
It is symptomatic of the 'crisis' that the actual and potential
most important builders of houses , historically and in other countries 
contemporarily , and the most highly motivated,i.e. the self-build house a 
builder is not mentioned in the RTPI evidence.
Reduction of the price of land  offers the most scope for reduction in house 
prices. ) that land costs are rising while actual construction costs and 
materials are falling due to improved mechanisation , standardisation and 
technical improvements, makes discussion of 'housebuilding',' affordable 
housing', 'social housing' , without addressing this 'motor' which leads the 
housing 'drive' misdirected.
There are reasons to believe that the Chancellor of the Excqueqer's terms to 
the review misunderstands the nature of the problem.

The writer's experience of house building is of the self-builder. Having 
financed, site-located, designed, planned, drafted, costed and part built, 
part contracted out a house in London's Muswell Hill, lived in it as  home 
and later sold it.  CAP is one of the biggest single influences making  land 
  a 'market' and therefore putting in 'the market' the cost of land for 
housing.I understand the CAP regime. I am also an environmentalist and 
professional nature guide. I take an active and I would say informed role in 
campaigning for review of the land monopoly.

Self-build along with ending the land monopoly can provide all the housing 
needed by the population, provide unlimited self employment, disperse house 
building and congestion, reduce commuting and pressure on rail and road 
networks and absolutely reduce the price of the self build house and deflate 
the artificial boom in the price of the existing house stock.

The valid point made by the RTPI submission is that housing provision rests 
on political considerations.    RTPI fails to recognise that the political 
decisions of the unrepresentative nineteenth century legislators need to be 
reversed by HMG now, starting with the  repeal of the Enclosure Acts t put a 
large reserve of land back in the public domain. Such a reserve of land will 
devalue the land hoard of the speculators and deflate  speculation.  A land 
policy is needed  motivated by the needs of the sufferers of the housing 
crisis not the traditional elite who at present can manipulate the price and 
therefore the supply of land.
This justifies the employment of the doctrine of 'Eminent Domain' in order 
Realign the resource of land to meet the human needs and rights of the 
people of Britain.

With respect, the Review, without taking into account this standpoint , is , 
like the evidence of the RTPI ,unlikely to effect the "crisis" or even 
understand the issues.

james Armstrong

Marion Shoard  'This Land is Ours'
Henry George  'Land Tax'
Dorchester County Council, Planning dept. 'Town Plan , April, 2003'
John Clare    "Remembrances"

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