UK govt puts public land up for sale for new home building

The UK Government has published details of 600 acres of surplus public sector land for sale as part of its drive to see tens of thousands of new homes built across the country.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis urged developers to seize the opportunity and look at the sites via the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Some 80 public land sites are now for sale and there will be 40 more 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. Over 20% of the sites already have outline or detailed planning permission.

Lewis pointed out that the Government has embarked on the largest house building programme since the 1970s and said that some 160,000 new homes should be built through the sale of surplus public sector land.

‘Using surplus public sector land for housing has helped us get the country building again with the number of new homes up by 25%. Selling off these sites will allow us to go even further, delivering on our ambition to support a further 160,000 homes, while providing a significant boost to local economies and the taxpayer,’ he said.

‘I now want to see developers getting shovels in the ground as quick as possible and build the homes hard working people want and deserve,’ he added.

The HCA is the government’s disposal agency for surplus public land, and using its local market knowledge, commercial expertise and experience of managing large portfolios of land, exceeded its contribution to the government’s last land programme by more than 3,000 homes.

In total, Whitehall departments released enough public sector land to support more than 109,000 homes during the last parliament, Lewis also pointed out.

‘The sale of surplus public land helps to meet government priorities to build more homes and business premises, while delivering a financial return to the taxpayer,’ said HCA chief executive Andy Rose.

‘We will use our commercial expertise and local market knowledge to make land attractive to house builders, to help get homes built more quickly and meet local priorities. As the government’s disposal agency for surplus public land, we are well placed to support other departments and agencies in meeting their contribution to the government’s land programme,’ he added.

A new Land Development and Disposal Plan sets out some key principles of land disposal, which followed a review of the HCA’s processes and were developed in cooperation 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.

‘Public sector land accounts for a significant proportion of potential residential land and can play an important part in helping the country to boost housing numbers,’ said David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation.

‘The role of the HCA is critical in helping the government to meet its ambitious targets for releasing public land for housing and the creation of a more commercial environment with greater clarity will encourage more companies to bid for sites,’ he explained.

‘In developing this new approach, the HCA engaged constructively with the industry. To be successful, public land disposal processes must be as clear and efficient as possible, taking account of the needs of all house builders, from SMEs seeking small sites through to large national companies with the capacity to develop very large sites,’ he pointed out.