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Spare a thought for the poor landowner

[Photograph by John Digney]

The correspondence in the FT has been continuing, with a letter from a landowner in a National Park who claimed that his estate was costing him money. A response from Carol Wilcox was published – she suggested, in irony, that perhaps we ought to pay landowners and put a few estates up for auction to see if they really were worth less than nothing.

I thought we already did pay out money to landowners, through the CAP, “stewardship grants”, etc. One wonders why he bothers, but the most likely reason is that he enjoys his estate, and looking after it is his hobby. It is costing him money in the same way that a householder’s garden costs money.

My own (unpublished) response was this…

Today’s letter by Mr N. B. B. Davie-Thornhill in the FT talks about the high costs of maintaining his estate in a National Park and exceeds his income. One wonders why he continues to hold on to it, but it is is a good illustration of the fact that some land is of little or no value. Owners of land in such situations would be amongst the greatest beneficiaries of a shift from present taxes to a land value charge, because marginal land such as his estate would be subject to a minimum payment, if any at all.

On the other hand, such owners would enjoy the further benefit that their running costs would be reduced, since they would no longer be inflated by taxes on inputs such as fuel, employees’ wages and bought-in service