Public land for housing – a government’s ambition

The role of the public sector cannot be underestimated…

Having just got back from attending events associated with the Chartered Institute for Housing Conference in Brighton this week, and in the knowledge of the political emphasis being placed upon housing delivery, the role of the public sector cannot be underestimated. Indeed looking back a 100 years or so, the public housing building programme delivered almost as much housing as the private sector and in such times the shortage of housing was not as prevalent as it is today, many have argued that the principle reason has been the reduction in the public house building sector. In this article, we are going to look at:

The DCLG Public Land for Housing Programme report 2017
• The government-owned body, Transport for London is to create 400 houses

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published the first annual report on the Public Land for Housing Programme 2015 to 2020 on 20th February 2017. This report contributes directly towards the government’s ambitious housing programme for the 2015 to 2020 Parliament. Their ambition: To sell land for at least 160,000 homes by the end of March 2020.

The review of the Public Land for Housing Programme report…

Gavin Barwell – Minister of State for Housing and Planning began the document with his ministerial statement:

Increasing the supply of land for new homes is central to this government’s vision of a country that works for everyone. And as a major landowner the government has a crucial role to play in managing its estate more efficiently to secure best value for money for the taxpayer, boost growth and help support the building of new homes.

Here is a summary of the report:
• On the 30th September 2016, the total housing capacity of land either identified for sale or already sold was 145,492. This was 91% of the programme ambition. An increase from 119,928 (75% of the programme ambition) at the end of Year1, leaving land with the capacity for 14,508 homes (9%) unidentified at the end of the first six months of Year 2

Acting on the advice of the Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office it had made several changes to its approach to delivery, including strengthening the evidence required to demonstrate planning certainty. In addition to that, it will also monitor the building of new homes on land sold in both the 2011-15 and current programmes to help demonstrate the programme’s contribution to boosting housing supply.
• From the period May 2015 – September 2016 all departments sold land with capacity for 13,817 homes. The Homes and Communities Agency sold land with the largest housing capacity (6,618 homes, or 48% of the total sold), followed by the Department of Health (3,516 homes, or 25%)

Departments cannot claim land as sold for housing for the purposes of the programme unless there was evidence of:
• A signed conditional contract, development agreement or building licence with a private sector partner or a freehold transfer having taken place (whichever is sooner)
• Planning certainty that the site would be developed for housing. This could be positive commitment or support from the local planning authority, inclusion in a local plan, outline planning permission or full planning permission

All land identified for the programme was assessed in terms of risks to successful sale within the programme timescales. As from September 2016 it is stated that:
• 42% was identified as ‘high’ risk (where one or more issues where were very unlikely to be resolved before 2020)
• 33% was ‘medium high’ risk (with several issues which could be resolved shortly or an issue which could take time)
• 24% of the land identified and not yet sold was rated ‘low’ or ‘medium low’ risk (having minor issues preventing exchange of contract before 2020 which could be resolved)

In Year 2, the programme focussed on action to address the risk that sites would not be ready for sale by 2020:
• Departments were encouraged to transfer sites to HCA and had moved 14 (capacity for 4,000 homes) by September 2016
• They continued to find more land as a priority to try to meet targets should they not sell high risk sites by 2020, the Department of Health had identified land with capacity for an additional 1,500 homes above target and HCA land with capacity for another 550 homes
• The government’s Accelerated Construction programme should help bring development forward faster

Nearly 950 sites were sold under the 2011-15 programme and over the course of both programmes, DCLG anticipates that over 2,000 sites will be sold.

How will progress of the government’s ambition be monitored?
An external contractor was being appointed to undertake an annual data collection exercise to show a site’s progress through the planning system, when on site construction started, and the number of homes started and completed each year. The next Annual Report will be published this August with more information on sites sold under the 2011-15 and 2015-20 programme. This will include the second half of Year 2 (October 2016 – March 2017) and thereafter annual reports will be published in July each year.

To read the full report, go to:

The TFL propose to utilise an RAF site in the borough of Greenwich to create 400 homes.
The government owned body Transport for London (TFL) have embarked on a housebuilding venture to raise funds. To work with a developer and housing association to build 400 homes in Kidbrooke. TFL is one of London’s biggest landowners, holding 5,700 acres across 3000 sites. If approved by the TFL’s finance committee, the Kidbrooke development – a former RAF site in the borough of Greenwich, will deliver the first homes from 2020, half will be classed as ‘affordable’. The site was previously part of an RAF base and was then used as operational land during the construction of the A2 road. It has since been largely unoccupied, apart from Henley Cross bus stop.

James Murray the deputy mayor for housing said that the mayor is determined to fast track more public land for development and to ensure at least half the new homes across TFL’s portfolio sites will be genuinely affordable. Also look out for our Girl on Train series starting later this year as this will be tracking development on and around TFL’s interests in London and beyond!

We follow the latest developments in government planning. To find out more about the TFL proposal go to:

Did you read the Housing White Paper 2017? Cast your eyes over our review, a four part series giving you the need to know information. Find out more here… 

How did the 2017 budget affect housing? Read the full budget here. 

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