Erwin Hepperle, Robert Dixon-Gough, Vida Maliene, Reinfried Mansberger, Jenny Paulsson, Andrea Pödör (eds.): Land Management: Potential, Problems and Stumbling Blocks. European Academy of Land Use and Development. Zurich 2013. 320 p.
Land management issues matter, now more than ever on the global level. The European Academy of Land Use and Development (EALD) organizes annual symposiums on topics related to the interactions between people and the land in both rural and urban environments. The publication at hand contains contributions of planning, surveying and soil-science experts from 14 European countries. The articles are based on presentations provided at EALD symposia in Székesfehérvár, Hungary and Liverpool, UK. Land management topics and concerns have rarely been so prominent in academic publications and newspaper reports. The contributions aim to cover the wide range of German rural restructuring problems and the creation of indicators to measure the effect of the contrarian instruments (Alexandra Weitkamp, pp. 33–47).
Land management priorities are set by the machine of (public and/or private) planning and its monopoly, according to the chapter by Thomas Kalbro and August E. Røsnes using the examples of Norway and Sweden (pp. 49–65). In practice, tools are needed to compare alternative actions and to identify the best alternatives for land use through intervening planning versus market-oriented planning. However, spatial instruments depend on the preferences of public and private landowners and the rule of law. Sufficient compliance with land-use planning objectives must be achieved. Regionally and locally significant plans and measures need to be harmonized and carried out in comprehensive concepts, while also satisfying the requirements of the current land-use planning policy (case study: Sweden).
At the same time, the rural and infrastructural development needed to cope with demographic trends can be very cumbersome and costly. It depends, to some extent, on the cooperation of the affected landowners who have to pay for the infrastructure and social services. To ensure the development of local public transportation and communication infrastructure, water and energy supply, public health services, sanitation and water supply for rural (re-)development, landowners should be forced to take on some of the social and development expenses, for example, “by the aid of land readjustment” in Norway (Eivind Hasseldokk Ramsjord and August E. Røsnes, p. 85). Development in rural areas depends on the poly-rationalities and properties of the involved landowners. Ramsjord and Røsnes consider the coordination of property issues wisely (pp. 87–90).
For Germany, Hans Joachim Linke stresses the point of ownership cooperation to balance the gains and losses of (re-)development processes in Germany (pp. 107–120). Peter Ekbäck examines institutional designs on land use and property rights acquisitions (pp. 67–83). The contributions share a common umbrella: Land management strategies comprise the totality of the public authority’s activities in relation to land, a socially just distribution of landownership, and social housing. European legislators have a unique opportunity to elucidate and improve social land policies, e.g., aiming at urban centers in the United Kingdom (Emma Mulliner/Vida Maliene, pp. 267–277) and likewise in rural areas of Taiwan (Hsiao-Lan Liu, pp. 219–230). Giedrius Pašakarnis et al. offer convincing results on the success factors of land consolidation in Lithuania (pp. 121–131). John Kiousopoulos and Demetris Stathakis precisely delineate urban land evolution in medium-size Hellenic cities. Interestingly, they conclude that it is frequent to observe illegal development outside of the cities that takes the form of buildings in banned areas or that exceed the legal building dimensions in medium-sized Greek cities (p. 151).
Kema Chupova’s argument is that in present Russia, a new period of property taxation followed the cadastral valuation regulations in 2010 (pp. 187–193), however, similar to other European countries, the Russian national, regional and local authorities responsible for land valuation and taxation face the difficulties of skimming-off the potential windfall profits of the landowners to achieve an even distribution of wealth (Chupova, p. 190). Land taxation in Russia is highly connected with the introduction of the property market system after 1991 (Nikolai Volovich, Evgeniya Nikitina, pp. 194–209).
In their recondite contribution, Volovich and Nikitina illustrate paradox planning and governance situation with the example of Moscow City and Moscow Region. They lift the spatial controversy up to a higher level of conflict between public and private law and two different political systems, which makes the Moscow Region that has doubled its territory due to rapid development (at the expense of forest and agricultural land, of course), an inimitable case study. Sufficient confidence can hardly be found on the reliability of sales prices recorded as the basis for the tax payment in Russia and other European states. Certainly, theories and practices of land taxation as innovative tools of land administration remain highly controversial. Chupova and Volovich and Nikitina clearly show that once a plot of land has been auctioned for a given price, as the laws stand at present, what taxes are subsequently levied on that piece of land, how is the taxable value calculated, and how often do value revisions take place, and what are the tax rates applied to land during the life of the lease.
By improving prior assessment tools for mass evaluation and ad valorem taxation, countries such as Russia, Lithuania and Estonia serve as examples for the evolution of taxation in adverse circumstances of rent-seeking, speculation and unequal land distribution. Property taxation, eventually supported by land value taxation, will become an important future source of, e.g., Russian and Lithuanian revenues. In the past, the development in land markets partially counteracted the intentions of rural land development (case study: Taiwan).
Hans-Gert Braun presents the strategy to allocate land to peasants and safeguard their livelihood through the idea of common pool resources, known in Alpine villages as communes, based on the evervalid framework given by Elinor Ostrom (Braun, pp. 231–243). Louise Kirsten provides an excellent overview on the implementation of green leases on commercial practices in the United Kingdom under the landlord-tenant relationship towards environmental friendly constructions (pp. 279–296).
The closing summarizing chapter was written by Erwin Hepperle. He pleads for an integrative land management, tracking the train routes of thought to circumnavigate the indeed existing stumbling blocks towards a multidisciplinary soil protection in Switzerland and elsewhere (pp. 309-320). My conclusion is this: Land managers and planners should carefully study this thoughtfully and diversified collected contributions of a European land management journey.
Fabian Thiel, Frankfurt am Main