Back to the land?
mark at tlio.org.uk
mark at tlio.org.uk
Tue Jan 3 21:46:35 GMT 2012
Below is an article about a new vision for the Land Settlement
Association by Colin Wiles taken from Inside Housing, published in
As part of the coalition government's housing strategy announced on
22nd Nov 2011 (the main part of which was a £400m initiative to build
up to 16,000 new homes by allowing an acceleration of investment in
"ready-to-go" construction sites where work has stalled, £400m for
FirstBuy, to help 10,500 first time buyers with the help of an equity
loan up to 20% & a mortgage indemnity scheme offering 95% loans to
value mortgages for new build properties in England to support 100,000
households), they have provided in what is entitled a "Custom Homes
programme" £30m for short-term project finance for independent
projects to help individuals and families build their own homes.
This was first announced in May last year (Ref:
and mooted by Housing Minister Grant Shapps before the 2010 General
Election. TLIO's James Armstrong went to some considerable effort
over many months in lobbying Mr Shapps and his local MP Oliver Letwin
who also happens to be Chairman of the Conservative Party's Policy
Review (who may have been disposing some of James' more recent letters
about financial fraud in the city in litter bins in St James Park!!!)
In his correspondence, James highlighted the self-build project in
the village of Rock, North Cornwall, in which 12 bungalows were built
and sold to members of the local community at affordable prices, which
you will note is referred to in the Guardian article above. Helen Rawe
from St Minver Community Land Trust which bought the land gave a
presentation on the project at the workshop delivered by James at
TLIO's Autumn Gathering entitled Housing Corporations & their
Back to the land?
by Colin Wiles, Mon, 28 Nov 2011
The government should look to the 1930s for innovative ways to
encourage self build, says Colin Wiles
Grant Shapps is keen on self-build and the housing strategy takes a
step to encourage it. But desperate times call for desperate measures
so heres a radical idea: how about reviving a scheme from the 1930s
that would allow people not only to build their own homes but to grow
their own food and live a self-sufficient lifestyle?
The Land Settlement Association was set up by the government in 1934
to offer smallholdings to unemployed workers from the industrial areas
of England. The first one was at Potton, in Bedfordshire where 30
smallholdings were set up. Between 1934 and 1939 1,500 smallholdings
were created in 26 settlements, housing 4,000 people on 11,000 acres.
Each family was given a cottage and 5 acres to grow food and keep
livestock. The settlements were like collective farms and each was
expected to grow cash crops, such as cucumbers and salads under glass,
to pay for their running costs. The scheme was a mixed success; about
half of the settlers moved on because the rules were rigid and many
families did not take to agricultural life. After the war the LSA was
absorbed in the county council schemes for smallholdings and then
wound-up in 1983 and the properties privatised.
But imagine a modern version of the LSA. It would chime with current
thinking on sustainability, self build, self-sufficiency, food miles
and a yearning for a more spiritual approach to life. Whats more, it
would help to soak up some of the surplus labour that capitalism no
longer needs and allow people to learn relevant new skills and live
semi-independently of the conventional system.
As Ive written before, its a myth that we live in an overcrowded
island. We have plenty of surplus land and there is scope to make it
more productive. I was struck by a recent Guardian article about a
scheme near Hay-on-Wye run by Dr Paul Benham that produces an annual
turnover of £25,000 from just one and a half acres. He uses
permaculture and organic systems to produce much more produce than
conventional farming could ever do. Imagine what would be possible on
During the twenties and thirties, there was a significant self-build
programme called the plotlands, but it developed independently of
government control, mainly driven by Londoners buying plots of land in
the countryside to build holiday homes. Places like Jaywick and Dunton
are the legacy, but they never had the proper infrastructure to make
them work properly, whereas this scheme in Holland, which has
apparently caught Grant Shapps eye, began with the infrastructure and
then parcelled up the plots for self-builders. Large swathes of
Victorian England were developed in this way - streets and
infrastructure were provided and then the plots were marked out and
sold off to small builders and self builders who created a diverse and
eclectic streetscape, so unlike the mass produced rabbit hutches that
have been imposed upon us over the past fifty years.
A revived version of the LSA, with less rigid rules, would hit many
nails with a single hammer. Social enterprise structures
co-operatives, community land trusts or community interest companies
could be set up to deliver the vision. The Emmaus communities and
places like Findhorn already follow this model to some extent, but the
missing elements are land and a too-rigid planning system. Yet
according to the HCA there are around 158,000 acres of brownfield
land in England and some of it, old airfields for example, is not
suitable for large-scale building but could be converted into an
LSA-style project. A pilot scheme would only need a few acres to get
started off and I am sure there would be a huge demand for it.
On Thu, 22 Dec 2011 20:51:24 +0000
james armstrong <james36armstrong at hotmail.com> wrote:
> at Villasge Road, London N3 a plot for a single house is for sale.
> The price of `the small plot is £850,000 which makes the pro rata
>land cost £6million per acre.
> (This is suburbia ) I built a house a mile away in 1984 whcih cost
>£55,000 including the plot.
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