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Council launches Southwark Land Commission

19 January 2023

The council is launching Southwark Land Commission, the first commission of its kind in London, and only the second in England. It will bring together a panel of experts, community groups and major landowners. Together they will work to free up more of Southwark's land, for the benefit of local people.

A fresh and innovative approach to improving the way land is used in the borough is underway. Representatives from across Southwark have been invited to join Southwark Land Commission, in a move that is a first for any London Borough.

Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh can now be announced as the chair for the commission. Dr Fahnbulleh is Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation and an expert in delivering policy at local and national levels. As Chair for the Southwark Land Commission, Dr Fahnbulleh will bring her vast experience of navigating complex issues to help encourage debate and get to the heart of the matter. 

The Land Commission is a new venture that aims to capture the imagination of key partners to help change for how we all think about land use in the city for evermore.

The first meeting of the Commission will take place next month on Tuesday 28 February.

Cllr James McAsh, Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development, explains what it’s all about:  “Southwark is blessed with diverse communities, full of talent, history and vibrancy. Over three hundred thousand of us live alongside one another in just eleven square miles. Having so many people in such a small space is part of what makes our borough such an exciting place to live, work and visit. However, it also means that the land we have is precious. We must use it for the benefit of us all.

“Everything happens on land. Whether it’s time spent at work, at home, or out and about enjoying ourselves with friends and family – everything happens somewhere. All human activity needs a place to host it – it all needs land.

“This gives landowners a lot of power to shape our world. You can only go to the zoo, the cinema or the shops because the owners of these patches of land gave permission for their land to be used in this way. But it’s not just landowners who have powers and rights over the land – we all do and we should use them.

“My passions are social and environmental justice. And I’ve learned that land contributed to them both. The housing crisis can be solved by allocating more land to genuinely affordable homes. The climate crisis can be tackled through greening our land: providing open spaces, opportunities for food growing and sustainable active travel. In recent years, Southwark has made major steps forward in this: from our ambitious council house building programme to our work to promote sustainable transport. 

"The Southwark Land Commission is an exciting new project to take this forward. Bringing together a panel of experts, community groups and major landowners, the Commission will interrogate how more of our borough's land can be freed up for the public good. We'll look at how power to shape land can be radically devolved to the communities who use it. 

“Three local organisations are helping us to deliver the Land Commission and meet our ambitions. The main organisation involved with the Commission is Southwark –based PRD, with support also being provided by We Made That and PMV Planning

“This is the first commission of its kind in London and only the second in England. British local authorities are some of the most restricted in Europe so we face real obstacles in challenging the status quo. The Southwark Land Commission is an opportunity to think big and push the envelope, for the benefit of the borough's residents and beyond.”

About Southwark Land Commission

Local representatives will bring their insight, expertise and experience to shape the future of land use for the borough as members of the first ever Southwark Land Commission.

The Southwark Land Commission will be chaired by Dr Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation.

Other members of the commission include:

  • Shade Abdul, Director Deft. Space, Associate Lecturer, BA Architecture, Central Saint Martins
  • Professor Mark Brearley, Professor of Urbanism at London Metropolitan University and proprietor of Kaymet
  • Chris Brown, Executive Chair and Founder, Igloo Regeneration
  • Peter Elliot, Head of Property Development, Transport for London
  • Cllr James McAsh, Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development
  • Dreaon McDonald Simms, Leader Southwark Youth Parliament
  • Dr Anna Minton, Reader, Department of Architecture & Visual Arts, School of Architecture Computing and Engineering (ACE), University of East London
  • Prof. Dame Henrietta L. Moore, Founder and Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity and the Chair in Culture Philosophy and Design at University College London (UCL)
  • Akwesi Osei, Transport Planner at Possible
  • Janine Rowe, Southwark Planning Network
  • Jonathan Sedgwick, Archdeacon of Southwark in the Diocese of Southwark
  • Anood Al-Samerai, Chief Executive, Community Southwark

The full list of board members will be updated in time for the first SLC meeting in late February. Details about the focus and scope of the Land Commission will be decided when the board meets.

It was agreed last September to set up the Land Commission as a commitment in the Council Delivery Plan, the organisation’s business plan, 2022-26.

Three local organisations are assisting the council to deliver the Land Commission. Southwark-based PRD is the main organisation working with the council on the project, with support from We Made That and PMV Planning.

Page last updated: 21 February 2023

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