5 DECEMBER 1952, Page 20


The Development Charge

SIR,—The Spectator is usually well-informed and fair-minded; but your Mote on development charges is so inaccurate and contradictory that I feel that I must briefly point out the unfairness to landowners and he Land Board of your statement that the £300m was "inflated by the demands of owners who, without having the intention to undertake any actual development, thought it worth while to take part in the share- out of Government money." I have already (in a letter to The Times on Mr. Churchill's speech on the Address) used the analogy of a herd of cattle worth £120 a head suddenly reduced to £37 10s. by an Act of Parliament. Though the owner had no immediate intention of selling, was he out for a looted share-out of Government money in asking for compensation ? The £300m was paid for a solid asset —the building-development increased value of the whole country— and the development charges so far collected had already paid a handsome dividend on it.

But you, paradoxically, do recognise that the new Government scheme can make use of this reasonable global valuation of " develop- ment " (which a moment before you have called " inflated ") so that the former "floating value" can no longer be concentrated on any one piece of land which may be required for compulsory purchase or for assessing compensation for refusal to permit development.

I wish that people, when they are criticising the 1947 Act, would turn up the Uthwatt Report. Nearly all the troubles of Lord Silkin's Act would have been avoided if he had been content to follow it. The Uthwatt proposals neither applied to built-up areas nor to the marginal building-land around our towns. The Report said wisely: Acquire the development rights of open land, pay out the legitimate compensation and forget about it. Then use the undeveloped land to its best advantage.

There will now be the irksome job of paying out compensation in driblets with the Treasury always pressing for the cheapest and easiest land ! I greatly fear that the next Labour Government will go to the other logical extreme and nationalise all land. Is the Spectator in favour of that ?—Yours faithfully, PATRICK ABERCROMBIE. Brooks's, St. James's Street, S.W.1. [No.—Editor, Spectator.]