Something about this story doesn’t make sense

Latham House farm in Wigan has been in Jimmy Morris’s family for more than 80 years. He and his wife, Gillian, use their nine hectares (23 acres) of greenbelt land to graze sheep and cows, and in the winter they welcome Blackpool beach’s donkeys for their holidays.

The first they knew of proposals to build on their land was when a council notice was pinned to a lamppost on their road. A stretch of land next to the Morris’s farmhouse, near the junction between the M6 and the M58, has been marked as a possible site for a new road leading from the motorway, plus 170 houses and 150,000 sq metres of employment space.

The family bought the farm 30 years ago, after renting it for more than half a century, in the hope that they could secure it for future generations.

Is the land being compulsory purchased?

If not, then how are people building on their land without permission?

46 thoughts on “Something about this story doesn’t make sense”

  1. Typical Guardian story. Either the writer is an idiot who did not ask the right questions, or she left out anything that might hurt the “evil developers concrete countryside” narrative.

    I suppose it is possible for the local authority to be stupid enough to include a parcel of land in a development plan without consulting the owners of said land but it seems unlikely, even if the plans are at a very early stage.

    If their land is going to be bought for development then they’re going to get a very tidy sum compared with agricultural land values. Enough to buy a farm elsewhere with plenty of room for winter donkeys and enough left over to ease the pain of transition. And, as sustaining a four person family from a 23 acre farm is very hard indeed, they might find life a bit more comfortable.

  2. Happens all the time.
    Exchange contracts conditional on planning consent.
    Get planning
    Buy land.

    Not unique to UK either.

  3. MC
    Councils are forever changing their planning and development. Then they invite interested parties to see the maps and stuff at the town hall / web site.

  4. Most planning should be available online.

    Very handy for a weekly check to ensure there aren’t any surprise mosques heading your way.

  5. Reading the canny wording, it seems like it could be something like a compulsory purchase for an access road for an adjacent 170 houses etc. off their land.

    But in any case, there’s something to the case that the Grauniad is hiding. A covenant with the council?

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    As BiF says, you don’t need to own land or even have the owners consent to get planning permission. Given how expensive the process can be its a bit short sighted not to consult them and at least agree the principles of any sale.

  7. I think anyone can apply for planning permission on any land. Not many people bother unless they own the land, for obvious reasons, but as I understand it there’s no legal impediment.

  8. I love the way the very, very Statist Guardian suddenly discovers in these stories what the State is like, with all the pearl-clutching it produces.

  9. Reading between the lines, on this, I’m guessing this is “common” land that the farm’s had customary grazing rights on. Without it, 23 acres won’t be a viable farm.
    And I do have some sympathy with the family & the locals
    It’s the same story as the market squares in many towns & villages – including the one I lived in for a while.
    Originally the marketplace was within the local lord’s demesne. ( I know the current one. Still farms a lot of land around the village). The market was an essential part of the village economy but was also where a lot of the village life was played out. At some time in the past, the market place got passed over to the parish & became “common property” of the village.
    Move on a few centuries & the marketplace is now vested in the local authority – in this case the county council – who regard it as “their” land & flog it off for shops with flats over & a pay&display car park. Gutting the centre & whole focus of the village.
    A sharp contrast to France. Where they seem to have preserved almost all of their town & village markets. providing the amenities they were always supposed to be & making France worth living in.

  10. “I think anyone can apply for planning permission on any land.”

    If so, it would be a funny blog post for a blogger with a bit of money to do a planning application for knocking down the Houses of Parliament and building a block of student flats there, with associated Lidl.

  11. @ bis
    IIRC it is even more difficicult to build on common land than on land owned by someone else – it would need an Act of Parliament. So my bet is that the council is proposing a development and intends to compulsorily purchase the land for the road at agricultural use value, cutting the remnants of the small farm in two.

    The GMCA has ten Labour members and just one Conservative out of eleven but the Grauniad carefully suggests that all parties except the Consrvatives oppose the plan.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    I am reminded of Ken Loach’s film Ladybird, Ladybird. An amusing light comedy that Loach, of course, intended as a harrowing account of the problems of a single mother and the Social Services that unaccountably persecute her for being a drunken slag with four children by five different fathers.

    Anyway, the relevant bit is Loach has spent his entire life demanding more money and more people for the people in Social Services. It is ironic that he would make a film about how everything he has demanded over the years actually makes life pretty miserable for the poor people at the other end of his politics.

    In the same way, the politics of the Guardian along with the rest of the British Left, is based on taking other people’s stuff away from them and using it for the “public good”. Now suddenly they are sorry that a local council is doing just what the Guardian wants them to do?

    Why? What makes these farmers special? Why is their business worthy of protection but tens of thousands of other businesses the Guardian is only too happy to persecute into bankruptcy are not? Is it because of those f**king donkeys? That makes them inviolate?

  13. One suspects that they won’t be forced to have the houses and the employment development if they don’t want it, but if they refuse to allow the land to be used for the road widening scheme, then they will have it compulsory purchased off them.

    To be honest they’re idiots. They’ve just won the lottery. They’ve done absolutely nothing and the State has just decreed their land is now worth at a bare minimum £2.3m plus the value of the house/farmstead, instead of a few hundred K. Probably considerably more, as small development sites have a greater value per acre than large ones. Not only that they can take the money so gained and buy another much larger farm and pay zero tax.

  14. @ SMFS
    “Why is their business worthy of protection but tens of thousands of other businesses the Guardian is only too happy to persecute into bankruptcy are not? ”
    Presumably because they give the Guardian an opportunity to blame evil property developers and the Tory Manchester mayoral candidate (that the evil developers are a Labour-controlled council is carefully hidden).

    “…four children by five different fathers” – impressive performance!

  15. @john77

    ‘“…four children by five different fathers” – impressive performance!’

    I don’t think the law defines ‘father’ as ‘originator of spunk’. I think it’s just a man with parental responsibility. (Though probably not a man, these days, either.) As I understand it, one kid could have eight fathers, or forty-eight.

  16. “If so, it would be a funny blog post for a blogger with a bit of money to do a planning application for knocking down the Houses of Parliament and building a block of student flats there, with associated Lidl.”

    You’d need quite a lot of money, a redevelopment scheme of that size would most likely have a planning fee running into tens of thousands, if not hundreds. Plus be required to have documentation accompanying it that would also cost hundreds of thousands. You don’t just fill a form in.

  17. @ Jim
    CPOs don’t pay development value just value-in-current-use if the council is buying it.
    Secondly it is – according to the Guardian – green belt land so the houses aren’t being built on their land. The CPO is for an access road across their land to the development site. The “employment space” in the site is more than one-and-a-half times the area of their farm, so it is going to be a fairly busy road at least twice a day.

  18. @John77: the article says their land has been earmarked (presumably in the Local Development Plan) for a road improvement plus 170 house plus employment land uses. Thus while they could have the land required for the road improvement compulsorily purchased at agricultural value, the rest of the site is now development land and they could employ a developer to put in a planning application for the 170 houses etc themselves, and then sell it to the developer. For a song. Councils don’t go about compulsorily purchasing land for development if they don’t have to, the £££ signs in front of the landowners eyes normally does the job for them. If they sit tight and refuse to do anything, eventually the road improvement land will be purchased off them, whether they refuse to take the jackpot on the rest will be up to them. If they don’t make this situation into a massive win for themselves there are indeed idiots.

  19. @ Jim
    They have 23 acres, the employment use alone will absorb 150,000 sq metres which is about 37 acres.
    The article says “A stretch of land next to the Morris’s farmhouse, ” not “their land”
    It also says “use their nine hectares (23 acres) of greenbelt land” – and you can’t build houses on greenbelt land. So *they* would never get planning permission to build houses on it.
    Tim quite correctly says “something about this story doesn’t add up”

  20. @Jim

    ‘You’d need quite a lot of money, a redevelopment scheme of that size would most likely have a planning fee running into tens of thousands, if not hundreds. Plus be required to have documentation accompanying it that would also cost hundreds of thousands. You don’t just fill a form in.’

    Double whammy Jim. Submit your application on a one-page letter – I would suggest not the Lidly approach but to replace the Houses of Parliament with a luxury migrant accommodation, a womyn’s studies campus, a fair trade market and a protest ‘space’.

    When they refuse to accept it because ‘your paperwork’s not right’ you kick off about the bureaucracy.

    I would enjoy reading the Graun.

  21. What john77 says:

    > CPOs don’t pay development value

    The whole point of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 was to deprive landowners of any planning gain and hand it over to the government, which at the time was Attlee’s nationalise-everything Labour. It wasn’t about protecting the green belt, preventing sprawl, or any of the other myriad of excuses which are given today.

  22. @John77: I suspect the 150,000m2 is in fact 150,000 square feet of employment use, which is approx 15000 m2, which is 3.75 acres.

    Allowing for 20 houses to acre 170 houses needs 8.5 acres, employment land as above, leaving over 10 acres for the road improvement and the infrastructure for the 170 houses. Fits in perfectly.

  23. @ dotdavid

    @ Jim
    No, it does say square metres not sq ft
    The houses are to be on the other side of Latham Lane from Latham House Farm.

  24. The trick with Planning Permission and the HoC is what you want the land for.

    I propose that the community of famous London Museums gain a new member with the building of a grand “Museum of State Atrocity”.

    This would be a marvellous edifice –in some grand old style rather than “Souless Shite” style of modernism.

    It would have several wings–A Hall of Thieving with a waxwork of the LHTD to greet ( in both senses of the word) visitors with animatronic abuse. A Hall of Corruption–illustrating the economic evil and scammery of the state’s, a Hall of War –not treading on the IWM’s toes but showing how war is largely state caused and the horrible consequences, a Hall of Horror with animatronic diorama and sickening 3d/multimedia shows of the murdered millions. Also a Hall of Arrogance showing the hypocritical nature of the states “one law for you etc” capers. And a Hall of Trivia where you can enter ANY topic into the computer and discover if and mostly likely how the state has made the topic you cite worse, more expensive, difficult, illegal etc,etc.

    The usual cafes (with food served at “tax free” prices)/facilities and a dining/reception hall so that speeches etc could be “Broadcast from The Museum of State Atrocity”.

    All in all, A Grand Day Out.

  25. Councils can designate any land they want for housing, with or without the permission (or even the knowledge) of the landowner. Happened to some farmer neighbours of ours a few years ago.

    Whether anything actually gets built depends on the landowner, of course (our neighbours aren’t interested); but personally, knowing how next-to-impossible it is to make any money out of farming, if someone suddenly came along to me and said “Hey, that land of yours that was worth £2000/acre yesterday, guess what, it’s now worth £1m/acre!”, well I reckon I’d get out of farming pretty damn quick.

  26. ‘Proposed’… ‘possible’.

    Could it be a statutory notice the purpose of which is to alert those who might be affected – like Jimmy Morris – by a ‘proposal’ so they have the possibility to object?

  27. Look its all part of this:

    Its a strategic plan for the entire Greater Manchester area. Its not a planning application. Its not a compulsory purchase order. Its the local authority saying ‘This is where we see the development going over the next X years within our boundaries’. To be honest most land owners spend money (or developers do on their behalf) to get land included in such Local Plans, because it means that you’re pretty much guaranteed planning permission if you apply for it. You’re pushing at an open door.

    I am absolutely sure that the owners of this land will have to accept no development other than the road improvements if they don’t want to, there will be other land owners queuing up to take their allocation if they don’t want it.

  28. Planning applications are a source of joy to me. 6 years ago an application was made to fell the trees on our property in a conservation area. With the other site owners we researched this with the intention of objecting – and found it was the lady overy the road making g the applications because the trees are non indigenous and offended her aesthetic tastes.

    So we didn’t object. Now we have a good reason to fell one of those trees ourselves, with permission already given. Certain neighbours are attempting to object. They particularly don’t seem to like that, as they they share the freehold of their site with her, they have also effectively shared the of our application.

  29. Redevelopment of the Houses of Parliament site seems like an overly ambitious project for relative necomers to the development lark.

    I agree with interested but maybe Cal’s idea should be scaled back for a first shot. There’s a property in Ely, I believe, ripe for conversion to a micro-abattoir as soon as we’re free of the EU and the dreadful regulations which closed down the small local slaughterhouses.

  30. They can’t build on his land without his permission, but absolutely anybody can apply for planning permission on absolutely any piece of land. I could apply for planning permission to build an nuclear power station at Buckingham Palace. I don’t need to own the land to apply for the regulatory permit. Getting permission from the land owner is an entirely different matter.

  31. @ Jim
    So you are now accepting the The Guardian is lying. Welcome to the real world!
    However, if some of what the Grauniad is saying is true, the access road from the motorway to the housing and businesses onthe other side of Lathan Lane from their farm will cut the Morris’ farm in two. There is nothing therein to say that they will get any benefit from the plans.
    BTW the elder son doesn’t sound like Asperger’s syndrome, more like Kantian autism so £100m compensation wouldn’t be enough.

  32. Mr. Ecks you forgot the largest of them all, The Hall of Fucking Uselessness

    It will have a gigantic circle of animatronic robots passing papers back and forth randomly, and tearing them up or hiding them under the carpet, also randomly. The robots will mostly be huge overweight plodders with arses like hippos. The circle will rotate very, very, slowly

    Every robot will have a desk with a telephone constantly ringing and being answered 1 in 10 calls, randomly. There will be a computer screen with random displays of cat videos, porn, cartoons, the Guardian CiF, Russian dash-cam crashes, Facebook, emails, and more porn. Once a day, the screen will have official forms, but only for a random 10 minutes.

    In the centre of the circle the visitors will gaze in wonder and periodically a random robot will seize a random visitor, abuse him or her verbally for a few minutes, demand money with menaces assisted by an armed free flying Tax Collector drone. The money must be paid immediately in cash for the human to be released from the clutches of the robot, which, when paid, will laugh uproariously in a Darth Vader voice and tear up the money.

  33. Here you go:

    Latham House Farm is the little island in the sea of orange that is the allocated development area, which in total is about 160 acres. So the Morris’s 23 acres will form part of a 160 acre largely industrial development, with some housing. As such they will be handsomely compensated for all their land, even that used for any road improvement – when a scheme such as this involves more than one landowner there will be what is known as ‘equalisation’ – just because your land ends up with a road on it doesn’t mean you get nothing, some of the value created elsewhere by your bit of road is shifted to you in compensation. Basically one adds up all the value created in the scheme, minus all the costs, and everyone gets an across the board figure, based on the proportion of land they have in the development. Otherwise there would be no incentive for those with the non-value parts of the development join in.

    As I said,this means the Morris’s 23 acres is now worth a bare minimum of £2.3m, very possibly as much £5m. When someone with slightly more brain cells points this out to them one suspects the talk about donkeys and community access will suddenly disappear rather rapidly. To be replaced with ‘Show me the money!!!’.

  34. So Much For Subtlety

    Fred Z – “There will be a computer screen with random displays of cat videos, porn, cartoons, the Guardian CiF, Russian dash-cam crashes, Facebook, emails, and more porn.”

    Off topic, but in passing, some woman wrote an article about being on a bus with a man watching porn. With earphones so it took her a while to work out what he was doing. Since then others at the Guardian have added their special little contribution.

    I find this fascinating because this is another case where women are clearly mourning the passing of gentlemanly behaviour. Those repressed Christians would not watch porn in front of women and children. The Sixties radicals would have presumably said the man was free to do what he liked as long as he hurt no one – and watching porn on the bus seems a pretty harmless activity to me. How would anyone actually know unless they are snooping on his own private space?

    But the feminists can’t support the former and find the latter unacceptable so they are re-defining “harassment” to include this. Although quite how someone minding his own business, quietly watch some anime, is harassing anyone escapes me. Passive harassment? Like passive smoking but with three extra layers of bogosity?

  35. @ Jim
    You are annoying me.
    The housing is not on their farm land. the proposal is for a road across their land, not for a purchase of their land on which to build houses,. CPOs are based on current use value.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    Jim – “When someone with slightly more brain cells points this out to them one suspects the talk about donkeys and community access will suddenly disappear rather rapidly. To be replaced with ‘Show me the money!!!’.”

    Perhaps that is so. But a little voice in the back of my head tells me to kill all red-headed Scotsmen, no wait, not that voice, the other voice which says, if it is such a great deal why is the State deploying armed men with guns to back up their insistence on taking the land whether the owners want it or not? And this is a compulsory purchase which the State is perfectly willing to use violence, up to and including homicide, to enforce.

    If the money is so good leave it to the developers to work out their own damned deal.

  37. FFS. I know this stuff backwards, I’ve been through it for the last 30 years. The council isn’t compulsorily purchasing anything. They have merely identified this bloc of land as a suitable site for development, one that will get planning permission if a suitable scheme is put in for planning. They will expect that private sector developers will sign up the landowners and bring the entire scheme forward under their own steam, in their own good time. The last thing councils want to do right now is get involved in property development, or years of fighting to impose compulsory purchase orders. If because of the intransigence of one landowner refusing to get involved, after many years, then and only then would they consider compulsory purchase to get the scheme moving.

    So what will happen now is all the landowners in the area will be inundated by every property development company going, if they haven’t already got one signed up, be promised all the wealth under the sun, and hopefully sign up to the overall scheme. Those development companies (ideally one would manage to get all the landowners under their wing) will then bring forward a planning proposal for the relevant type of development. The landowners will all share in the proceeds (and share the costs), such that anyone who has to have the access road on their bit (such as potentially the Harris’s) don’t get nothing while the person whose land has houses (or warehouses) on it gets all the lolly. Without the access road the houses and the warehouses (which are the main development) don’t get built, so its only fair that those who provide the access land get an equal share of the spoils.

    If the landowners in the area identified all stand together and play their cards right they stand to share a windfall of tens of millions of pounds. If they try to play beggar thy neighbour or dog in the manger they may end up with nothing.

    Its hardly the worst position to find oneself in really, is it?

  38. @ Jim
    If you know this stuff backwards why do you think that they are still using sq ft when local authorities have been using sq metres for decades under the mistaken impression that the EU forced them to do so?

  39. @John77: If you want to be pendantic, which you always do, I took the article at its word that the development described was only on the Harris’s land, rather than their land was included in a much larger scheme. As such I worked out that if the Guardian had made an error of m2 to sq feet, the houses and amount of employment space could indeed be fitted onto their 23 acres.

    However when I went and looked at the source documents it was obvious that the development was far larger than the Harris’s land, and was part of a large industrial warehousing scheme, and the amount of business space was indeed 150,000m2.

    None of the above negates my point that their land is now worth considerably more (10 to 20 times more) than they paid for it, and they have effectively won the lottery.

    Satisfied now?

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