The Government has sold off enough unused public land to build over 103,000 homes according to new figures released by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
The amount of land sold by the government surpasses the original commitment set by the Prime Minister and is expected to rise again by the end of March this year. On top of this, there are plans to release land with capacity for 150,000 homes between 2015 and 2020.
“Housing starts are at their highest annual total since 2007, but it’s clear we need to maintain this momentum and build the homes communities want and need,” said Housing Minister Brandon Lewis. “That’s why for the last four years we’ve pulled out all the stops to release formerly-used surplus public sector land for house building – meaning we have now exceeded our own target.”
Now, the government is calling on councils and developers to help turn it into housing as soon as possible, and is urging local authorities to follow its example and sell their redundant sites and buildings.
“House building is at the heart of the government’s long-term economic plan. That’s why, rather than leaving surplus public sector land idle, we are putting it to good use by releasing it to build new homes across the country,” said Pickles.
“This is part of wider efforts that have got Britain building again, leading to the delivery of 700,000 new homes since the end of 2009. I now want to see councils following Whitehall’s example and explore what they can do to release land and deliver new homes and savings for local taxpayers.”
The land released to date comprises of 899 sites across England, and includes:
* Ministry of Defence land at Aldershot in Hampshire – planning permission has been granted for up to 3,850 homes as well as road improvements, two new primary schools, providing 1,050 new school places; extensions to two secondary schools, providing over 675 new school places; two new pre-schools and day care centres and 110 hectares of new managed green space, play areas, sports and community facilities
* Norton Barracks, site of the former Army archives in Worcestershire, sold by the Ministry of Defence to Rooftop Housing Group in partnership with Wychavon District Council; it is now the site for 10 new affordable homes for returning services personnel and those who have retired from the Armed Forces
* Bexhill former galley sidings – a derelict former oil storage depot with railway sidings site sold by the British Railways Board; Barratt has permission to build 64 properties on the sites, a mixture of two-, three- and four-bedroom properties, including affordable homes
* Stratford City former railway land, sold by London and Continental Railways in 2011, which is now the site of ‘Stratford One’, a 28-storey building next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; it holds accommodation for more than 1,000 students including ensuite rooms and studio apartments
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has exceeded its contribution to the government’s target. At the end of February, the agency had released land with capacity for 18,307 new homes, across 119 individual sites, against a target of 17,727.
Of the sites released by the HCA (HCA), 48 have already seen development start on site, to support delivery of over 5,600 homes, increasing the supply of housing and supporting local economic growth, and with the remaining sites forming a pipeline of delivery over the next few years.
Its chief executive Andy Rose said: “Bringing forward more land in public ownership for development and speeding up the rate at which it is made available is core business for the HCA. We have combined our strong relationships with local councils and developers with our experience of managing complex and varied sites, to make a significant contribution to government’s ambitions for new homes and local growth.
“However there is more work to be done. Bringing land to the market is the start of the process and we will work with our partners, using our available funding and our local market knowledge to help maximise the number of new homes built in communities. Over 5,600 new homes have already started on site and we have a firm pipeline for future delivery.”
From April 2011 to date the HCA has brought forward a total of 119 public land sites for development. It has also worked in a wider role with government departments to identify sites in their ownership suitable for development, advise on bringing them to market, and helping to unlock sites where necessary.
Of the HCA sites brought forward, 40 are in the north of England, with 38 in the midlands and 41 in the south. The sites include:
Manor Kingsway – Former hospital land in Derby being transformed and brought back into use to provide much-needed new housing, retail and commercial space, and a country park, supporting local jobs. The new homes have been designed to draw on the mill heritage of Derby and existing architectural influences across the site.
Lancaster Moor – A derelict former psychiatric hospital in Lancashire and a prominent local landmark being turned into a new community with 440 new homes. The HCA worked with English Heritage to prepare the site for development, making it more attractive to developers.
Centenary Quay – A former shipyard being transformed into a thriving mixed community, bringing homes and jobs into the deprived area of Woolston, Southampton. Overall the development is expected to create up to 1,000 new jobs.
From April 2015, the HCA will take on an even greater land disposal role, building on its strengths of bringing sites to market for development and its local market knowledge.
The agency uses flexible disposal mechanisms such as deferred receipts, which improve developer cash flows and can make marginal sites viable; and the Developer Partner Panel, a fast-track procurement process which can speed up and reduce the cost of procuring a development partner for the HCA and other public bodies.
The HCA’s current Land Development and Disposal Plan sets out over 200 sites that already being marketed, or are likely to be brought to market over the next 12 months.