Page:The Land Question.djvu/23

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life. Trades will of course gather together; but perhaps one cause of the huge contrast between town and country is that for a long time promoters of industry had a rooted and well-grounded idea that on the estates of ordinary large proprietors it would have been perfectly useless for them to try to gain a footing. At the present moment there is no doubt a large quantity of land in the market and sites can be bought cheap; but it is difficult to draw employers of labour away from the large towns, and to induce them to start their works in new places. And when land has recovered its value the difficulty and the delay notoriously attaching to landed purchases will probably always make removal into less crowded neighbourhoods an exceptional thing, unless something is done to facilitate the acquisition of sites. I would therefore suggest in conclusion that when England is provided with the system of rural self-government which so many successive Ministries have promised to create, the local authority shall have that power of sanctioning compulsory tranfers of land which at present is exercised by Parliamentary Committees, and that an individual or a company requiring land for any useful purpose, and not necessarily one affecting the public at large, shall have the right of going before the local Land Court and obtaining an order for the compulsory sale of the land, if the object is one beneficial to the neighbourhood and no substantial objection can be adduced by the landed proprietor. He who needs ground for his own occupation seems primâ facie to be a more suitable owner of it than one who lets it to another. It is not, however, necessary to dwell upon the grounds which would naturally influence the Land Courts in the exercise of their discretion. I would not affront the gaze of the noble owner of Blenheim by erecting a row of factory-chimneys before his palace windows; I would not deliver the beautiful woods of Nuneham to the tender mercies of the speculative builder; but neither would I permit the caprice, or the inertia, or the exorbitance of individuals to close whole tracts of country to the reasonable requirements of an expanding people, and to deprive the rural population of the stimulus and the advantage resulting from the circulation of new life, new wealth, and new industries among them.