The European dimensions and land management - Policy issues (Land readjustment and land consolidation as tools for development)

 Jan Sonnenberg, The Netherlands

 F I G Commission 7, Annual Meeting 1996, Budapest, Hungary

One Day International Conference, 18 June 1996

"Land Management in the Process of Transition"


 According to the FIG Statement land management includes spatial and land use planning, valuation and taxation, land acquisition and delivery, land tenure and land registration or cadastre. This is a very broad definition. It includes all the activities of Commission 7 and even of some other commissions. This presentation will not go that far. In fact it will only deal with a surveyors activity that is not clearly indicated by this definition. The activity where I will in particular emphasize on is the active change of land ownership and land use. Most of the activities of the surveyor can be characterized as being of a registrative or recording nature, like surveying and mapping activities and land registration. The surveyor registers or records the results of what others have established or changed. The interesting aspect of land management however is that the surveyor plays an active role in changing the ownership and use of the land which in most cases leads to a physical change of the land. You may say that this activity is well indicated by land use planning in the FIG statement. The word planning however is more related to physical or spatial planning and is thus indicating the design of an intended physical situation but it does not include the way (the instrument or the procedure) how to get from the initial situation to the intended situation.

 The surveyors activity that is focused on in this presentation is in fact the implementation of the planning objectives by procedures that effectively result in a changed or renewed land ownership and land use which of course must be in accordance with these objectives.

 This activity which we call land consolidation or land readjustment has close relations to or includes planning, valuation and taxation, land acquisition, land tenure and land registration or cadastre. But the change or the exchange of land ownership and land use is the interesting centrepiece of this part of land management. Land consolidation is an expression that is mostly related to rural areas, whereas land readjustment is mostly connected with urbanization.

 When Commission 7 visited the UK in 1993 we got impressed by the interesting role of the surveyor in land management. We learned that the land manager in the UK is a surveyor who really manages the land and acts as a steward or an estate agent, which

 is a profession that is practised by other disciplines in most countries of continental Europe. Unfortunately I have to leave this out of the scope of my presentation as I will focus on land consolidation and land readjustment.

 In Western Europe land consolidation is used as an instrument for the development of rural areas. Agricultural as well as non-agricultural aims, i.e., all functions of the rural areas, can be served by land consolidation.

Land readjustment is used in some countries in the world as an instrument for the urbanization. Its purposes can be urbanization of new areas, conversion or rehabilitation of urbanized areas or integration of large facilities.

 In Central and Eastern Europe land reform may currently be regarded as the most important form of land management. In this presentation I will suggest to use land consolidation as an instrument for land reform.

 Land consolidation in rural areas

 The basic part of a land consolidation process is the reallocation of the ownership and the use of land. Legislation is provided for the reallocation procedure in most West European countries and in some countries in Central and East Europe.

 The reallocation procedure consist basically of the following steps:

inventory of the rights on the land and the valuation of the land;

drafting and confirmation of the reallocation plan, indicating the new parcels and their owners and users (tenants);

implementation of the reallocation plan and of other facilities;

financial arrangements

A very important aspect of land consolidation is the acquisition and delivery of land within the reallocation procedure. The reallocation procedure, which is in fact a tool to arrange the exchange of the ownership and the use of land in a large area, provides a flexible device for the acquisition and delivery of land.

 Most common is the application of a systematic deduction of ownership in order to acquire land that is needed for facilities of general interest, like new or improved roads and watercourses. In principle this flexible device also gives the possibility to buy land at any place in the land consolidation area and to have it allocated by the reallocation process at a given location or as close as possible to that. This provision can be used by the government to realize larger facilities, for instance for measures in the interest of nature and landscape. But also farmers can use this provision by purchasing land somewhere in the land consolidation area and trying to get it allocated near their farm. In these cases of reallocation of purchased land the allocation of this land has to compete with other possible claims on allocation of land at the same location. In the case of systematic deduction however, which is only used for facilities of general interest, legislation gives priority to the allocation at the acquired land at the location where the particular facility has to be realized.

Because of these elements of the reallocation procedure the application of expropriation, which is usually more expensive and very unpopular, can be avoided.

In a number of countries however there is a link between land consolidation and legislation concerning expropriation which makes it possible to enforce expropriation in land consolidation.

 Appendix 1 shows the extend of the acquisition and delivery of land in recent land consolidation projects in The Netherlands. It shows that purchase of land by the government in order to have it located at locations where it is needed for provisions in the interest of nature and landscaping is an important measure.

 When land consolidation started in Europe the only aim of it was the improvement of the agricultural parcel structure. In most of the countries this parcel structure was badly affected by legislation concerning inheritance which resulted in the creation of unprofitably sized parcels. In particular after the Second World War land consolidation became very important in most countries on the Continent of Europe. In the 1960s and 1970s having economically sized holdings became an even more serious farming condition. This resulted in the purchase of land by owners of financial strong (larger) farms from finishing farmers. This made land consolidation even more necessary and costly measures were included to improve the agricultural conditions of the rural areas.

 In recent decades agricultural over-production in Western Europe and environmental demands of society caused a significant change in the aims of land consolidation in a number of West European countries. Measures to improve the landscape and the natural conditions became an important part of the land consolidation activities in some countries. At the same time the agricultural aim of land consolidation changed from improvement of agricultural production ability into improvement of the living conditions of the farmers and improvement of the competitive power of farming.

 In particular in Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium (Flanders), Austria (Niederösterreich) and France legislation provides positive instructions to improve the landscape and natural conditions in a land consolidation area. Also regulations came into force in Germany, The Netherlands, France and Switzerland which oblige the land consolidation authorities to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in land consolidation projects. Land consolidation became multi functional rural development by which measures can be taken in the interest of most of the functions of the rural area in particular in The Netherlands and Germany (Bavaria).

 In Germany and Austria also upgrading of villages is still included in rural development. Legislation in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands provides the integration of the realization of important infrastructural facilities in rural development.

 In recent years many countries have seen a period of recession and were forced to reduce public budgets. There has been a trend to reduce government financing of many activities. This trend combined with the agricultural over-production did also affect the budgets of rural development. At the same time farmers became less interested in rural development because of the relatively growing importance of the non-agricultural aims of it.

 Another backlash is caused by the fact that procedures of land consolidation and rural development have become too complicated and take too much time. A review of the procedures has to take place and more simple procedures have to be created in order to make rural development by land consolidation more flexible and more decisive.

 At the moment it may look as if the recession is more or less over. Hopefully this will result in an increase of the budgets of rural development and that, possibly combined with more smooth procedures, rural development will be reactivated.

 Land readjustment as an approach to urbanization 

The task of modern urban development in a number of countries is often to transform and reorganize previously developed areas with an anachronistic property subdivision and infrastructure. And in particular in developing countries neither the authorities nor the individual owners have the resources for developing the urban structure in step with population growth.

Faced with situations of this kind a number of countries have arranged procedures to organize landowners for joint development. The experience with the application of rural land consolidation procedures by which the ownership and the use of land are rearranged have been introduced in urbanization.

 This kind of land consolidation using the reallocation process for urban development is usually called land readjustment. It can be done on a voluntary basis, but to achieve the best possible results, legislation and rules of procedure are needed. In order to arrange the financial aspects the formation of a legal owners association is advised.

 The advantages of land readjustment for urbanization compared with traditional methods are:

 more efficient implementation (e.g. expropriation can be avoided and planning and implementation can be integrated)

no restrictions by initial property boundaries

self-financing of the development costs

participation of the owners

fair distribution of profits

possibility of preservation of the original ownership structure and social networks

Land readjustment can have various purposes, such as:

 urbanization of new areas

conversion and rehabilitation of previously urbanized areas

integration of large facilities

Countries like Germany, Sweden, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and Western Australia (Perth) have special legislation for these urbanization activities by means of land readjustment. Other countries like the USA, Norway, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia carry out land readjustment on a voluntary basis.

 In Germany and Japan the fringe areas of towns and cities frequently consist of small holdings or heavily parcelled agricultural land. Urbanization of these areas by land readjustment has proved to be very appropriate. Appendix 2 gives a schematic illustration of the Kukaku Seiri method as the Japanese land readjustment method is mentioned. This method is widely practised in Japan. In particular in Southern and Central Germany land readjustment, which is called "Umlegung", is a firmly established method.

 France has always been strongly committed to rights of private property and so land readjustment by joint development was felt to be a good remedy against expropriation and against too much community involvement. French legislation provide joint urbanization measures to be taken by the landowners themselves. The practical implementation of this legislation has been relatively moderate and is much less widespread than "Umlegung" in Germany. Because of its privatized character preparatory discussions and pre-planning take much time with some risk of the initiators having to defray the costs of it. The whole procedure has proved to be rather unwieldy and time-consuming.

 In Sweden the conversion of extensively utilized building land to a more intensive form of settlement without expensive acquisition of land was needed in many places. At the same time involvement of the landowners in the conversion process was demanded. Joint development by means of land readjustment was adopted as the appropriate instrument to meet these demands. Its legislation came into force in 1987.

 In Japan land readjustment has also been used to support the allocation of land for larger infrastructural facilities. Greater fairness will be achieved in this way, damage and elimination within the existing structure will be reduced and at the same time land acquisition often becomes easier to accomplish.

 In Third World conditions, with a rapid rate of urbanization, land readjustment with its joint developments opens up the possibility of creating a necessary infrastructure. In the past this has been one of the cardinal motives to introduce the model in South Korea and Taiwan.

 Promotion of the implementation in Third World countries of the model of land readjustment for urbanization should deserve strong support.

 Land reform by land consolidation

 Land reform in a number of Central and Eastern European countries implies the readjucation or the restitution of land. If the land is given back to the original owners on the original locations or if the existing parcels are subdivided in order to fulfil the claims on land, the result will normally be a situation which is not very favourable with respect to an efficient use of the land. The instrument of land consolidation may be useful to support the process of land reform in order to avoid the creation of an inefficient land use structure.

 Using land consolidation includes the application of the reallocation process to allocate the land claims of the original owners. This may imply the following advantages:

 no need to restore the original boundaries

incorporation of the improvement of the agricultural structure

incorporation of the improvement of the infrastructure

incorporation of the improvement of nature and landscape

flexible settlement of differences between total of claims and total of available land

activation of the land market in case of transferability of land claims (or claims on reallocation)

Land consolidation may be particularly useful for the restitution of land in rural areas if the topography in the area has changed considerably, if the historic situation is not appropriate or if the original cadastral information is not reliable.

 Appendix 3 gives a description of the land consolidation process as it may look like when it is related to land reform. This procedure may look rather complicated and will need a firm legal basis, but it has the advantages as mentioned earlier.


 The level of the land consolidation activities in most of the West European countries is relatively low these years. On the other hand however there may be a lot of work to do in this field if land consolidation could become accepted as a tool for land reform in Central and Eastern Europe and land readjustment would be more expressly introduced as a tool for urbanization in Third World countries.


 Larsson, G., 1993; Land Readjustment, A modern approach to urbanization; Avery, Aldershot, England.

Meuser, F.-J., 1992; Europäische Fachtagung Flurbereinigung 1988, Analyse de Ergebnisse, Diplomarbeit; Heft 15, Lehrstuhl für Bodenordnung und Landentwicklung, Technische Universität München.

Tenkanen, A., 1994; Environmental aspects of land consolidation; Proceedings of the XX Congress of the International Federation of Surveyors FIG, no. TS 704.3.


Authors address:

Jan K.B. Sonnenberg, ir.


P.O. Box 9046


The Netherlands

tel: +31 55 5285 245

fax: +31 55 3557 931


Appendix 1

Land acquisition by rural land development in the Netherlands

In hectares according to land consolidation plans covering a total area of 70. 000 ha. (1994 and 1995)


A: systematic deduction for local roads, water courses and related facilities

B: systematic deduction for nature, landscape and recreation

C: systematic deduction for other non-agricultural purposes

D: purchased or provided land used for nature and landscape by reallocation

E: expropriation


 Appendix 3

 The land consolidation process related to land reform

 If the opportunity is taken to upgrade most of the functions (agricultural as well as non-agricultural functions) of the land reform area, it will be necessary to start with the drawing up and establishment of a land reform plan that indicates the facilities of general interest that have to be preserved or realized, the planning of the acquisition of land (e.g. by application of a systematic deduction) that is needed for these facilities and the financial arrangements.

 Successively the different steps of the reallocation process will be considered in the light of land reform in order to give an idea of how the process of land reform could look like in case land consolidation is applied:

 Drawing up of the list of rightful claimants and of the sort and extent of their rights on the land. This is of course one of the most difficult parts of the process in case there is no useful land register available. But if land consolidation is used there is no need to restore the original parcel boundaries of agricultural land. And the legal procedure for the establishing of the list of rightful claimants as applied in normal land consolidation may also be useful in land reform. In order to draw up the list of rightful claimants the persons who claim to have rights on land in the land reform area must be given the opportunity to have their claims registered by the land reform authority. The sending in of these claims must be finished before a certain date which must have been announced extensively in the region and may-be also country-wide. The land reform authority has to find out which claims are competitive and the claimants of competitive claims have to prove their rights. The land reform authority must try to settle these competitive claims. Finally the court (preferably a specialized chamber of the court) has to decide about the remaining competitive claims and has to establish the list of rightful claimants and of the sort and extent of their rights. It may not be necessary to carry out an valuation of the land. Just a classification of the property claims may satisfy (arable land, wood, house, garden, etc.). Based on the established list of rights each rightful claimant has a claim on reallocation. These claims should be made transferable to other rightful claimants in the specific land reform area and it should be made possible that these claims become subject to leasing to other rightful claimants in the specific land reform area. An other approach could be that the government keeps the ownership of the land and leases the land out to the rightful claimants. The claims on reallocation of lease should also be made transferable. The transfer of claims has to pass the land reform authority in order to make it legally valid. Thus the land reform authority can keep record of the claims.

Laying down for public inspection of the list of rights. There is no need for public inspection of the list and the establishing of the list by the court is included in the previous step.

Wishing session concerning the reallocation plan. This wishing session may also be useful in land reform concerning agricultural land. For the sake of the chosen policy with respect to agriculture it may be necessary to have rules which provide that one

must possess at least a certain minimum of claims in order to get them allocated as a parcel in the land reform area. If the property of a rightful claimant is below this minimum he may be forced to accept that his claim will be sold or leased to other rightful claimants or to the government. The beginning of the wishing session is the final moment of transfer of claims. These rules must be made clear to everybody and must be included in the overall land reform plan. During the wishing session the land reform authority will be able to inform the rightful claimants whether they have enough claims to get them allocated by the reallocation plan. The remaining claims which consequently will not be reallocated to their rightful claimants form a buffer stock of land that can be used for facilities of general interest or can be used to enlarge the claims of rightful claimants who have expressed the wish to get an enlarged reallocation of their claim. The rightful claimants who loose their claim in this way must be compensated financially.

Drawing up of the reallocation plan. Like in normal land consolidation the best possible agricultural structure can be realized by the reallocation plan. Also in land reform it may be advisable to design the reallocation plan on an actual topographic map on which the new facilities of general interest are already mapped. It may also be necessary to apply a systematic deduction of the claims. Like in normal land consolidation it will be necessary to allow a small margin of for instance 5% between the claim on reallocation and the actual reallocation in the reallocation plan.

Laying down for public inspection of the reallocation plan. The same procedure as used in normal land consolidation may be useful in land reform.

Legal confirmation of the established reallocation plan and cadastral registration. A similar procedure as used in normal land consolidation may be useful in land reform. It provides the opportunity to establish a reliable land register or cadastral registration. It may also be useful to keep record of the leases.

Financial arrangements. The differences between the claims on reallocation and the actual reallocation according to the reallocation plan must be compensated financially. If the rightful claimants do not have to pay for the land reform, apart from paying by systematic deduction of their claim, there will be no need to carry out an evaluation of the results of the reallocation plan. The procedure to establish the financial arrangements can then be kept as simple as possible.