January 2004 Archives

Issue 1 (January 2004)

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Editor Tony Vickers writes: Welcome to my newsletter. You have either collaborated with me on research in the past, before I coined the word ‘landvaluescape’ or created the web-site of that name (where this newsletter is found) or you have recently indicated that you’d like to be kept informed of work in my area of interest: the mapping of land values.

If you do not want to continue receiving this newsletter, which is planned as an electronic monthly, please e-mail info@landvaluescape.org with ‘remove’ in the subject line. If you think other colleagues might like to receive it, please pass it on and/or send me their e-mail address. I am happy to receive comments on my work via the same address.

This issue gives an update on the three main strands of my PhD at Kingston University School of Surveying and invites readers to exchange URLs with me, also other forms of collaboration. If the content of landvaluescape.org might attract some of the same kind of people with whom you work, I would consider an exchange of logos or links as appropriate.

Visualising Landvaluescape: Developing the Concept for Britain. That’s the title of my dissertation, being undertaken at the School of Surveying, Kingston University, London. Basically I am assessing the outline business case for ‘UK plc’ to embark on a programme of land valuation.

I enrolled in October 2001 but only went full-time last month, upon completing two related research projects for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge MA USA which you can read about on their web-site or download from my home-page. The paper Blueprint for a Smart Tax is most relevant. I aim to present my thesis in late 2005.
There are three strands to my PhD research:-

  • A Policy Delphi Process, involving some 30 experts, stakeholder representatives and others interested in UK Value Mapping;
  • Production of a Demonstrator Value Map of an area of Oxfordshire; and
  • Fact-finding visits to four ‘comparator’ countries where Value Maps are already used or planned.

The Policy Delphi
A Delphi is a ‘virtual committee’ convened to share information and views about a complex technical policy area, so as to help develop a shared understanding of options for the future. My Delphi Panel or Group was launched in mid-November with invitations to fifty people known to me. I’ve since widened the net to a further several dozen. Altogether 28 had joined by my advertised closing date of 16th January. I expect a positive answer from about ten more within a few days. So far, I have nobody from Wales or Northern Ireland _ any offers?
Over Christmas an on-line facility was created and I decided to allow informal participation by anyone who applies via my web-site. My quantitative analysis will involve only those selected _ and agreed by my Kingston supervisors _ as likely to give me a well-informed and balanced set of views.

Anonymity is a key factor in making a Delphi work. It avoids the tendency for a few prestigious or strong-minded individuals to dominate, as often happens in a ‘real’ committee. It also encourages frankness and makes it easier for people to modify their views as the process develops and they learn from others.

In my Delphi Group there are three or more self-proclaimed UK experts in each of the key fields: spatial analysis techniques; property valuation; land and tax policy; and geographic information policy. The Group is politically balanced, including influential people in all four UK parties: Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green. It has a roughly equal mixture of academics, private sector practitioners and public officials, with several from land policy campaigning organisations.

Generally participants are at professor / director level but some Group members admit to little or no relevant knowledge in any of the above fields. They have been appointed by their ‘stakeholder’ organisation to represent its views and may consult with colleagues before posting contributions. Others belong to more than one stakeholder group but speak purely for themselves in the Delphi. A few are included purely because they have a reputation for being provocative, which facilitates the process!

It is anticipated there will be three or four ‘rounds’ of questionnaire over 15 months. The first is already available on the web-site and needs to be completed by the end of January. The second will feed back to the Group my assessment of their views on the significant issues to be addressed, as well as inviting further comment. Between then (April) and the autumn the Delphi Process will merge with the other two strands of work described below.

Oxfordshire Trial

Independently of - but conveniently for _ my research plans, the county council and Vale of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire resolved to undertake a desk study of land value taxation (LVT) over a year ago. When I was looking for current UK land value data to put into a demonstrator system to show stakeholder groups, I could find no better potential source.

The two councils lacked funds to pay for site valuations but were well under way with assembling their relevant datasets in-house. Lincoln Institute offered me a grant sufficient to pay for a professional valuation surveyor _ Robert Ashton-Kane FRICS IRRV of Clark Scott-Harden - to supervise the crucial work of site valuation. Contracts were signed on 16th January and site value assessments for 3500+ land parcels should be available by April to go into the database that Vale of White Horse DC’s GIS section have prepared. Students from the School of Economic Science, which has a study centre in Oxfordshire and specialises in land economics, will help the valuer collect field data to supplement that already held by the councils.

By the end of July, I need to provide the Lincoln Institute with a Demonstration Map, thereafter I hope to be able to use this dataset to illustrate the concepts and issues set out in my Delphi Group papers. The company that supplies the GIS software used by the council, ESRI UK Ltd, has offered to sponsor a seminar about my work in the autumn.

I am currently using a final-year GIS undergraduate from Manchester Metropolitan University, Chris Hughes, to prepare Value Map demonstration products. It will need further funds to enable me to continue employing Chris (or someone like him) through the rest of the year - not being a ‘hands-on’ GIS expert myself. Any offers? Chris would like to more work of a similar nature and Landvaluescape aims to eventually employ at least one full-time GIS person.

Overseas Fact-finding
Because there is no experience of Value Maps in the UK, it is difficult to engage minds on the potential costs and benefits to us here. Hence an important part of my research involves gathering information from other countries. I carried out an initial questionnaire survey with members of Federation Internationale Geometrique (the World Congress of Surveyors) at the start of my PhD, from which I identified four countries that may shed most light on the subject: Australia, United States, Denmark & Lithuania.

I plan to visit all four countries, subject to funding, between April and August this year. Meanwhile I am doing what I can via the internet to research the incidence and usage of Value Maps in these and other countries. If you are a non-UK reader and know about such things being planned or used in your country, I would be very keen to hear from you.

I submitted an application to the RICS Education Trust last autumn, mainly to pay for my travel and accommodation costs on these fact-finding visits but also to help maintain my web-site and pay for GIS work. If you would like to sponsor this research programme, please get in touch with me urgently. If funds are not forthcoming, I may have to delay or curtail this work.

Prospects for Value Maps in the UK
When enrolling for my Delphi Group, people are asked to give their views on "when the UK will probably have been value mapped". Although several are initially unable to guess at a date, to my surprise the most common guess is ‘2010’ and most believe that Value Maps will have been produced by then.
There is an awful lot more research to be done before such a forecast becomes reality...
BURISA (British Urban & Regional Information Systems Association) newsletter Issue No.158 (Dec 03) features my article Value Maps: The Next Utility? I can send a copy to you if you are not already a subscriber. www.burisa.org

As a way of preparing for much more detailed value maps of Oxfordshire, I have obtained from the Henry George Foundation a set of ‘land value index’ quarterly data for each local authority area of England & Wales, going back several years. It gives the land-only cost of an average home. Expressed in spreadsheet form, this Index is not very user-friendly. However when dropped into a map, it comes to life. Watch this space!

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