The Unearned Increment artwork
The 50 Shades of Planning Podcast

The Unearned Increment

  • E37
  • 1:10:33
  • February 3rd 2021

Consensus between economists is rare, but almost all agree that there is a moral argument for the taxation of land.

Planning reform, death and taxes have long been three of life’s certainties. Land taxation and the concept of betterment dates back at least to the time of Henry VI who is thought to have captured the value of land improved by royal investment in flood defences.

Winston Churchill spoke in 1919 of the “unearned increment” accrued by landowners following public investment in infrastructure and called for the state to capture more of this uplift for the public benefit.

The MHCLG Select Committee concluded in it’s 2018 Land Value Capture report that ‘there is scope for central and local government to claim a greater proportion of land value increases through reforms to existing taxes and charges, improvements to compulsory purchase powers, or through new mechanisms of land value capture.’

History has shown though that attempts to capture land value increases have had mixed success. Is it actually possible to capture a fair share for the community without discouraging owners from bringing land to market? Liz Peace, referring to her work as Chair of the 2017 CIL Review Group, said that ‘it is probably the most intellectually difficult thing I have ever grappled with’.

Councillor Martin Tett of the Local Government Association told the MHCLG Select Committee that “if it was easy everyone would have done it years ago”.

How much value is it right to capture, how should it be captured and who should spend it on what?

Sam Stafford puts these questions to Richard Harwood OBE QC, Toby Lloyd and Gilian Macinnes.

Richard (@richardharwood2) is Joint Head of Chambers at 39 Essex Chambers and a case editor of the Journal of Planning and Environment Law

Toby (@tobylloyd) is a consultant at BuiltPlace, former Head of Policy at Shelter and a former special advisor inside No. 10.

Gilian (@GilianGMAC) is a Director at Gilian Macinnes Associates, Interim Head of Planning & Development at Ashford Borough Council and a member of the CIL Review Group.

Some accompanying reading.

'Land Value Capture: Attitudes from the housebuilding industry' by RICS.

The Compulsory Purchase Association's submission to the MHCLG Committee.,-Communities-and-Local-Government-Committee.pdf

The MHCLG Committee's Land Value Capture report.

'Land Value Capture' by Richard Harwood.

'A New Approach To Developer Contributions' by the CIL Review Team.

'Grounds for Change - The case for land reform in modern England' by Shelter.

Planning for the Future; Challenges of introducing a new Infrastructure Levy need to be addressed' by Christine Whitehead, Tony Crook and John Henneberry.

Some accompanying listening.

Taxman by The Beatles.

This Land Is Your Land by My Morning Jacket (Woody Guthrie cover).

The 50 Shades of Planning Podcast

Sam Stafford started writing the 50 Shades of Planning blog in 2012 and in 2019 turned it into a podcast. 50 Shades of Planning is about the foibles of the English planning system and it's aim is to cover the breadth of the sector both in terms of topics of conversation and in terms of guests with different experiences and perspectives.

50 Shades episodes include 'Hitting The High Notes', which is a series of conversations with leading planning and property figures. The conversations take in the six milestone planning permissions or projects within a contributor’s career and for every project guests are invited to choose a piece of music that they were listening to at that time. Think Desert Island Discs, but for planners! If you would like to feature on 'Hitting The High Notes', or know somebody that would make a great guest, please email [email protected]

If you have listened to Episode 45 of the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast you will have heard Clive Betts say that...

'In the Netherlands planning is seen as part of the solution. In the UK, too often, planning is seen as part of the problem'.

Sam said in reply that that would look good on a t-shirt and it does. Further details can be found here:

Sam is on Twitter (@samuel_stafford) and his blogs can be found here:

The 50 Shades of Planning Podcast is produced in association with BECG - the Built Environment Communications Group. BECG are on Twitter at @BECGUK and online at

Why Fifty Shades? Well, planning is not a black and white endeavor. There are at least fifty shades in between...