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Housing Minister confirms new ways for councils to free land for home building

Councils in England and Wales are to get new tools to speed up the development of derelict and underused land for new homes, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell has confirmed.

Local authorities across the country will now have to produce and maintain up to date, publicly available registers of brownfield sites available for housing locally and Barwell said that the new registers will help house builders identify suitable brownfield sites quickly.

The news comes as new research shows that the majority of developers back the release of more publicly owned brownfield land for home building and they also welcome the speeding up of the planning process.

Communities will be able to highlight local derelict or underused building sites that are primed for redevelopment. This can bring investment to the area and increase the number of new homes in the area.

‘We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we re-use brownfield land is crucial. We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside. These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this,’ Barwell explained.

Brownfield registers were first piloted in 2016, when 73 local planning authorities across the country pioneered the measures.

In addition, the £3 billion Home Builders Fund will be used to support the development of brownfield sites, with an additional £1.2 billion provided to unlock at least 30,000 Starter Homes on brownfield land.

The Government has also introduced a new way of obtaining planning permission through these new registers. It will make it easier for developers to deliver housing in the places where people want to live.

Permission in principle will simplify the planning process for developers and give them more certainty over whether a site is suitable for development ahead of working up costly proposals to obtain full planning permission.

Barwell pointed out that this will encourage new development and increase the amount of land available to build on, helping to boost housing supply. Further legislation will follow this year to roll-out permission in principle more widely through the planning system.

Releasing more publicly owned brownfield land for development is the biggest opportunity arising from the government’s recently launched housing white paper, according to new research among property developers commissioned by short term property lender Amicus Property Finance.

It found that 69% of developers think increasing the availability of brownfield sites will offer the most potential for developers. The proposed reduction in the time permitted by local authorities to approve planning applications from three to two years, continuation of the Help to Buy scheme and increasing the focus on building homes in the affordable sector were the next most popular measures respectively.

However, the research also found that developers are sceptical of the Government’s target to build one million homes by 2020 with just 21% believing this target to be realistic and developers indicated that there are a number of additional policies that could help them to address the current housing crisis.

Some 78% would like to see a repeal of the stamp duty rises and tax relief change for buy to let landlords, 44% would like to see incentives for elderly people to downsize and free up family homes, 41% think stamp duty should become a seller’s tax rather than a buyer’s tax and 37% recommended a suspension in capital gains tax to encourage more land to come to the market.

‘Property developers appear highly supportive of a number of the ideas in the white paper, particularly releasing more brownfield land to the market and the greater focus on affordable housing. The existing Help to Buy initiative has also been well received by many developers and we have already financed a number of successful developments in the South East,’ said Keith Aldridge, managing director of Amicus Property Finance.