November 9, 2011

The release of public sector land for housing development

In June of this year, Housing Minister Grant Shapps announced the coalition government’s plans to speed up the release of formerly used public sector land. If developed it is estimated the land is capable of delivering up to 100,000 new homes.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced a summary report on its progress in accelerating the release of public sector land for housing development. The department’s strategy is one of several measures aimed at increasing housing supply.

The DCLG’s report outlines a number of measures aimed at accelerating the release of public sector land. These include consulting on a draft National Planning Policy Framework which will favour a presumption of ‘sustainable development’. The report supports the argument that local authorities should make every effort to identify and meet their housing needs and that where submitted applications are in line with local plans these should be approved without delay.

Other measures alluded to in the report include the introduction of a guarantee that planning decisions should not take longer than 12 months, even where these involve an appeal. However, of most interest to developers will be the suggested ‘build now pay later’ scheme which would allow developers to start work on building new homes without having to pay for the land upfront. If introduced this would ease pressure on developers’ cashflow and increase competition for land.

The four largest land holding government departments – Ministry of Defence, Department of Health, Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – all released information on their individual land disposal strategies in early October 2011 (available for viewing on their respective websites). Smaller land holding departments such as the Ministry of Justice and Home Office will be next to release their strategies. Whilst individual departments will be responsible for delivering their strategies, a government committee will monitor progress and hold departments to account where necessary.

Holmes & Hills has one of the leading teams of Planning Law solicitors in the country. Click here for information Holmes & Hills Solicitors' Planning Law services. 

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