Scottish Labour exploring Ed Miliband land plan

SCOTTISH Labour is exploring the introduction of Ed Miliband’s controversial plans to seize land back from developers who are not building houses.

Johann Lamont is exploring Ed Miliband's land scheme . Picture: Getty

Johann Lamont, the leader of the party north of the Border, is looking at drawing up a similar policy for its manifesto for the 2016 Scottish election.

The proposal, unveiled by Mr Miliband at this week’s Brighton party conference, was presented as a method of stimulating house building by forcing developers to “use” or “lose” land.

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The Labour leader wants to hand local authorities strengthened compulsory purchase orders so they can buy and grant planning permission on land being hoarded by developers.

Councils could also be given the power to charge developers if they acquire land with planning permission but do not build on it immediately.

Should Mr Miliband get to No 10, his plans would only apply south of the Border, as housing and planning legislation is devolved to Holyrood.

But yesterday a Scottish Labour source indicated that similar proposals would be looked at by the Scottish arm of the party.

“We are talking about taking a look at that for the manifesto for 2016,” the source said yesterday.

Ms Lamont has already signalled that Scottish Labour is prepared to have a radical look at land ownership.

In her speech to Scottish Labour’s conference at Inverness in April this year, Ms Lamont revealed that Labour plans to extend land reform proposals so communities could purchase land even when the landowner is not a willing seller.

In Brighton this week, Mr Miliband announced that he would set up a “rebuilding Britain” commission headed by former BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons to achieve an ambitious target of building 200,000 homes a year.

The commission would look at so-called “land-hoarders”, namely hedge funds and investors who hold land as an asset with no intention of building.

The commission would also examine the need for statutory powers to charge owners escalating fees for sitting on land with planning permission in the hope that this persuades them to release it.

If this fails, then it proposes toughening up the confiscatory regime that allows councils to compel owners to sell through compulsory purchase orders.

Last night, a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Ed Miliband has set out a strong policy platform and where these ideas are devolved, we will look closely at what is being done in other parts of the United Kingdom to see what would work well in Scotland and give them due consideration in our Holyrood manifesto process.”

The prospect of such a “use it or lose it” scheme being introduced in Scotland was criticised by the Scottish Conservatives.

The Scottish Tories’ rural affairs spokesman, Alex Fergusson, said: “We would totally oppose any kind of plan to take over land without the owner’s consent.

“This kind of action, particularly by a government, of any colour, is tantamount to land nationalisation.”

The scheme was also criticised by Homes for Scotland, the trade body looking after the home building industry’s interests.

Homes for Scotland said there was little evidence of developers hoarding land, suggesting that Mr Miliband’s plans were little more than “ill-informed rhetoric”.