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05/11/2020

We can create new ways of thinking about land and its uses

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Liverpool has launched England's first land commission, to take a close look at how land in the city region is used, and how accessible it is. Land commissioner Kate Swade explains why this matters

I was ehonoured to be asked to be part of the Liverpool City Region Land Commission. The first of its kind in the country, the commission is going to be focused on pragmatic project ideas for how public land can be used to support community wealth building.

Its members come from the worlds of activism, academia, innovation and policy, with lots of practical experience of starting socially beneficial projects. It’s a snappy process, with four meetings and a report before Christmas, coordinated by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

I have four key ambitions for the commission. First, that it should look at public land as a whole in the region, and think about the kind of overarching infrastructure needed to support community-led and socially focused land and building projects to thrive.

Too many of the flagship community-led development projects are the result of years of campaigning, fundraising and lobbying before they even got access to their sites. We have a chance here to help to ensure that good projects get to concentrate on actually delivering their benefits.

Second, I’m excited to think about how land uses other than housing can fit in, specifically growing food. Is there a chance in the region to create a ‘market garden city’ framework, supporting urban and peri-urban food growing at a scale that could feed Liverpool?

“There’s a real opportunity here to think about land – who has access to it, who benefits from it – as a social justice issue”

Maybe the combined authority could take notes from the Argentinian city of Rosario, where agriculture is fully incorporated into local land use strategies, and 10,000 families are employed in peri-urban and urban agriculture, with 40 hectares in food production.

Third, there’s an opportunity here to think about land – who has access to it, who benefits from it – as a social justice issue, and as a racial justice issue. Liverpool was at the heart of the slave trade and much of its wealth came from it. As my fellow commissioner, Amahra Spence, puts it: “So many of the injustices [that] Black people experience find their roots in historical land and space inequities.” This commission has a chance to offer solutions to historic inequities and make the Liverpool City Region a model for other regions grappling with inequality.

My fourth ambition is that this first land commission in England won't be the last– that other authorities take inspiration from this work, and set in motion their own processes.

Kate Swade is a director of Shared Assets and a Liverpool City Region Land Commissioner

Image credit | iStock

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