THE Government today faced calls to crack down on landbanking firms that scam consumers into buying small plots of land on the promise of high returns that never materialise.
MPs and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have launched a campaign to stamp out the practice amid concern that thousands of people have already been ripped off.
Landbankers offer investors small strips of the countryside under the pretext that they will see the value of their investment multiply once planning permission is granted to build houses.
Heavy marketing and promises of a chance to make easy cash - sometimes in excess of 800% on the original investment - have led to a growth of interest in the schemes over recent years.
But in reality, consumers are often left counting the cost as permission to build never materialises and they are lumbered with a small area of land which they have paid well over the odds for.
The CPRE said there were 29 landbankers operating in the UK with hundreds of plots being offered.
Figures from the campaigning website www.propertyscam.org. uk suggest that landbankers buy rural land at around £1,100 to £3,000 an acre. They then split the land into plots of 0.1 to 0.2 acres and sell them to investors for up to £30,000 each.
Most of the plots are unlikely to receive planning permission, it says.