In a strange turn of events, two Conservative MPs clashed on social media over proposals by the Labour Party to force landowners to sell plots below market value in order to cut the cost of housebuilding.
The Labour Party – led by Jeremy Corbyn – are looking at changing the law in order to allow the state to compulsorily buy land for a price that excludes the potential for planning consent in the future.
Treasury minister Liz Truss was up in arms at the thought and said the idea was “deeply sinister”, however she was shot down by Nick Boles, who replied “no its not”.
Boles later claimed that landowners shouldn’t be making a huge profit from the planning system.
The former minister has been very vocal about housing and has argued it should be central to the Conservatives’ domestic policy agenda if they want to keep Labour out of power at the next election, and suggested that the idea is worthy of cross-party support.
The exchanges, which took place on Twitter, were prompted by a report in the Guardian which suggested Labour were considering obliging landowners to give up sites for a fraction of their current prices in order to help pay for new council homes.
Land granted planning consent for new houses has a larger market value.
This boost in value is more often than not remarkably profitable for private landowners, developers, and firms who specialise in purchasing land for development on the behalf of institutional investors before selling – generally to councils.
Labour are now looking at changing the English law to create a new sovereign land trust that would have the ability to purchase sites closer to their pre-planning price.
By increasing the supply of land available, Labour claim they could slash the cost of building 100,000 council houses a year by close to £10bn.
Speaking to the Guardian, Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said that “rather than letting private landowners benefit from this windfall gain and making everyone else pay for it, enabling public acquisition of land at nearer pre-planning permission value would mean cheaper land, which could help fund cheaper housing”.
This in turn led to a heated debate between Ms Truss – Chancellor Philip Hammond’s second in command at the Treasury – and Mr Boles, who has been vocal in his opinion of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, calling for new thinking on issues such as social care, housing and the NHS.