Government urged to speed up public land scheme
The National Housing Federation has called on the government to change its strategy for releasing public sector land to deliver an additional 8,000 homes in the next two years.
It wants the focus to be switched from large, complex development sites to smaller, more easily deliverable sites to get homes built quicker in a more immediate £3 billion boost to the economy.
The NHF said the government should focus on sites that can accommodate up to 100 homes that do not require site assembly, or significant infrastructure or planning delays.
It recommended the government should fast track the release of a targeted portfolio of around 455 small sites across the south-east and the core cities, so homes could be built in the next few years rather than in the next parliament.
To do this, it called for the introduction of an open competition which could include a ‘use it or lose it’ clause to ensure winners commenced development quickly.
Under the plan, winners could also be required to deliver mixed tenure schemes that met local housing needs – and in return, they would get access to land on attractive deferred payment terms, such as through the government’s ‘build now, pay later’ model.
Were the government to incentivise local authorities to use their land as well, the NHF calculated that a further 15,000 homes could be built in the same time scale.
The government has committed to releasing public land with enough capacity to build up to 100,000 new homes by 2015.
However, the NHF said that according to the National Land Use Database, in 2009 there was 5,756 hectares of brownfield land suitable for housing and owned by the public sector that could accommodate 291,000 homes.
It said that the amount of previously-developed land owned by the public sector is more than twice the size of Leicester.
The call for a new strategy comes as the government yesterday pledged to bring more surplus public land back into use by strengthening the role of the Homes and Communities Agency.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said in a ministerial statement that he would accelerate the process of releasing land for development through a ‘targeted programme of transfers’ from other government departments.
He said that in response to a review carried out by Tony Pidgley, chair of developer, the Berkeley Group, he would also be preparing the land for market and providing a ‘single shop window’ for all surplus public sector land.
Mr Pickles added: ‘We will work with the mayor of London with a view to developing a similar approach in London, and to resolve how other measures are delivered for the benefit of Londoners.’