The question I get most often from the industry while doing this extraordinary job of mine in the Secretary of State’s Extended Ministerial Office (and I get asked it almost daily) is why isn’t the government releasing more land?
There is a general perception that HMG is hanging on to all its land holdings for dear life. But it would seem that this perception is not quite borne out by the facts. During the last parliament, Whitehall departments released enough public sector land to support more than 109,000 homes. Perhaps not enough, but certainly not deserving of the bad press that the government continually receives on this front.
Well, get the bunting out! It would seem we intend to do much better this time. And the industry should be cheered. Yesterday, the Department for Communities and Local Government published details of 600 acres of surplus public sector land being put out to market as part of the drive to deliver tens of thousands of new homes and boost local growth
Housing minister Brandon Lewis said (naturally enough) that this is further proof that the government is getting the country building again and he urged developers to seize the opportunity. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has put 83 public land sites up for sale and will bring a further 40 more sites to market over the next 18 months. It is estimated these sites will support more than 5,000 homes as well as land for industry and business. More than 20% of the sites have outline or detailed planning permission. Yesterday’s announcement is the start point to providing 160,000 homes through the sale of surplus public sector land. And this is all in pursuit of the largest house building programme since the 1970s, as HMG looks to hit an eye-watering million new homes by 2020.
Brandon Lewis said: “I now want to see developers getting shovels in the ground as quickly as possible and build the homes hard-working people want and deserve”.
It was almost a direct answer to Damian Wild’s eloquently framed question: “Will the government be able to turn impatience into action?” And anyone purchasing land from the public sector will be required to give assurances that they will build out in short order.
The Land Development and Disposal Plan published today also sets out some key principles of land disposal, which followed a review of the HCA’s processes and were developed in co-operation with the Home Builders Federation and its members. These include clearer objectives for each site prior to sale, early and meaningful market engagement with a transparent pipeline of sites, and clearer commercial terms
Delivery of homes in partnership with the public sector is the order of the day. To hit the zeitgeist, the South East Midlands local enterprise partnership held a highly successful housedbuilders summit, with more than 150 attendees, yesterday. And, mark my words, this will be the hot topic at MIPIM.
The Land Development and Disposal Plan – including a list of the 83 sites on the market – is available to download from GOV.UK.
More details on the sites on the market is available from the Government Property Finder website.