Thursday, 19 January 2017

Direct commissioning work 'could be years away'

The start of building work on some direct commissioning pilot sites could be years away, Inside Housing can reveal.

On Monday, David Cameron announced the government would contract directly with small and medium-sized builders in a bid to speed up development on five key sites across England.

It has not yet been revealed how the government will structure contracts with builders, or how much it is budgeting to pay them. However, progress is likely to be limited in the immediate term, with most sites reliant on the completion of complex infrastructure developments. The most ambitious, 8,500 homes on a former RAF base in Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, is unlikely to start before 2019 as access roads need building.

Ministers hope the overall plan will enable homes to be completed twice as quickly as they would under a more traditional model in which the sites are sold by the Homes and Communities Agency to a private developer.

The government has remained tight-lipped about how the increased pace of building will be achieved, saying the five pilots will be “testing different aspects”. On a previously announced pilot in Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, it planned to increase the speed of development by building the homes in one go rather than in phases as a private builder would.

The sites, except Old Oak Common in London, are already owned by the Homes and Communities Agency and have long been earmarked for housing development.

Daedalus Waterfront, a 57-acre site in Gosport, Hampshire, requires a road which will not be built until at least September, while the regeneration of Old Oak Common in west London is partially reliant on the completion of Crossrail. Connaught Barracks in Dover, Kent, only has planning permission for 64 homes with the development of the rest of the site reliant on the connection of utilities.

Lower Graylingwell, a former hospital in Chichester, has no start date as it awaits an agreement over the affordable housing element of the 165-home site. 

A direct commissioning pilot on the Northstowe site was first announced under a plan by the coalition government in December 2014.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said the current plan does not go as far as the original proposals, which had envisaged the government stepping in to top up housebuilding by as much as 100,000 homes per year.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing minister, has tabled several parliamentary questions on the planning status of each site but had not received an answer as Inside Housing went to press.

The sites

  • Northstowe, Cambridgeshire - requires the completion of access road
  • Daedalus Waterfront, Hampshire - requires the completion of Daedalus Drive which will not be until September
  • Old Oak Common, London - regen scheme led by mayor of London, part-reliant on completion of Crossrail
  • Connaught Barracks, Kent - planning permission for 64 homes. Requires utility connection
  • Lower Graylingwell, Chichester - wait on agreement over Section 106 scheme

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