Government to order housebuilding on public land

4 Jan 16

The government is to directly commission the construction of thousands of new homes on public land for the first time in almost 30 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the change as “a huge shift in government policy”.

Under the plans announced today, the government will commission homes on public sector land, ensuring that planning permission is secured before the plots are then made available to developers. This is also intended to ensure sites could be developed by smaller building firms who would not be able to take on bigger projects.

Four sites outside of London have been identified for the scheme: Connaught Barracks in Dover; Northstowe in Cambridgeshire; Lower Graylingwell in Chichester; and Daedelus on Waterfront in Gosport. The approach will also be used at Old Oak Common in the north west of London.

Building of around 13,000 homes will start on the four non-London sites this year, with ministers intending for up to 40% of which will be affordable ‘starter’ homes to buy.

Cameron said such a direct approach to development by government had not been used on this scale since the regeneration of the docklands in London under the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

“Today’s package signals a huge shift in government policy,” he said.

“Nothing like this has been done on this scale in three decades – government rolling its sleeves up and directly getting homes built.”

Currently, the eight biggest housebuilders in England provide around half of all new homes. The direct commissioning approach is intended to support smaller builders and new entrants who are ready to build but lack the resources and access to land.

Ministers also announced the creation of a new £1.2bn fund to prepare brownfield sites for the government’s flagship starter homes for first-time buyers, which are sold at a discount of 20% on market rates. The new fund is intended to fast track of at least 30,000 starter homes, of a target to build 200,000 by 2020, as well as up to 30,000 market homes on 500 new sites by 2020.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said these initiatives showed the government was “pulling out all the stops to keep the country building with a clear ambition to deliver a million homes by 2020”.

He added: “Today’s radical new approach will mean the government will directly commission small and up-and-coming companies to build thousands of new homes on sites right across the country.

“This, and the £1.2bn new starter homes fund, will help thousands of people to realise their dream of owning their own home.”

Responding to the announcement, Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “Today’s announcements will further help to bring much-needed new developments swiftly to market.”

However, Labour’s shadow housing and planning minister John Healey said today’s statement promised no new starter homes beyond those already announced.

“With home-ownership down to the lowest level in a generation and fewer homes built over the last five years than under any peacetime government since the 1920s, David Cameron needs to do much more to fix his five years of failure on housing.”

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