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A life on the rolling waves?

— 22 Jul 2019, 06:52 by Hugh Dennis

Press gang

One of the thorniest issues facing the Little Ships idea is what to do when the 'owners' of the publicly owned land don't want to sell their land (to us or anyone).

For years, I've kicked this problem around until the solution came to me in a WW2 film recently. There's a scene where two Royal Navy sailors are marching along duckboards on the Thames, requisitioning small vessels for the Dunkirk evacuation. This made me realise that not all the Little Ships were there voluntarily.

Little Ships will ask the 'owners' of these pieces of under-ustilised publicly owned land to place them on the open market, where we will try to buy them. If others pay more and build new homes, that's our bad luck but at least the land will have been put to better use.

If an 'owner' doesn't want to sell, has no better plans in place, or stonewalls us, there are several mechanisms available (including the One Public Estate programme and the Public Land for Housing programme) for other more willing public bodies to press the land into use. We'll make sure it happens.

Losing control of their site means the new homes will be 100% affordable and social, which will result in a lower price being paid than if they placed the land on the open market for any developer to buy. They also lose the opportunity to receive an income via a tied housing mechanism which would be available to them if they sell to Little Ships. Hopefully they'll sell to us or another not-for-profit developer.

Every piece of land matters. Even if it provides just one home and doesn't lose money, it's worth it. Let's start fixing the housing crisis, together.

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