Public land release programme comes under fire
Speakers at a Town and Country Planning Association event have questioned whether releasing public land is an effective way to encourage the development of homes.
Charity representatives and a Conservative MP cast doubt on the government’s land release plans, suggesting sites could be in the wrong locations, and lead to poor quality developments.
The government hopes to encourage the development of 100,000 homes by 2015 by releasing land to developers. In the Budget last month the chancellor confirmed it has identified enough land for the homes, with landowners including the Homes and Communities Agency and Ministry of Defence.
At the launch of a TCPA report on settlement design, Nothing gained by overcrowding, in parliament yesterday, speakers were unconvinced by the public land policy.
Toby Lloyd, director of policy at Shelter, described it as a ‘myth’ that it is the solution to the housing crisis. He said public departments would be driven by achieving ‘top dollar’ for the land, resulting in poor quality developments, and questioned whether sites would be in the right places.
‘We shouldn’t be building homes based on who happens to be the owner of the land, we should be building them where we need homes,’ he said.
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney and chair of the parliamentary all-party group on architecture and planning, said most of the available land in his area is airfields, ‘which are in many respects an unsuitable location’.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA, also warned the government’s determination to bring down the budget deficit by getting the best price for land could be damaging.
‘There are huge opportunities available with the land,’ she said. ‘But there is a political decision about how they want to release it.’
Housing minister Grant Shapps responded to a written question from shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn on the subject of public land release yesterday.
He said departments are ‘required to obtain best consideration for their disposals within the current market conditions’ and a progress report will be published next month.