Public land could deliver as many as two million new homes in England

Taylor Scott International News

Up to two million new homes could be delivered on public sector land holdings in England to help with the current housing crisis, according to a new analysis from real estate adviser Savills. The firm’s estimate is based on detailed analysis of public records of the Central Government Estate and the land holdings of the Greater London Authority (GLA) as well as market knowledge of the potential for development on NHS and Local Authority land. It is widely recognised that England is facing a housing crisis and that surplus or underused public land could play a vital role in delivering new homes, which are currently being built at only half the rate needed to accommodate the country’s growing population. However, the analysis report points out that a lack of transparency regarding the totality of these assets remains a major drawback in assessing the full potential, despite huge progress by the Government in this area, and limited public data currently makes it impossible to conduct a comprehensive analysis of all public land. The public estate held by central and local government in England is worth £370 billion according to figures from the Cabinet Office, but there is little clarity regarding what form these assets take. The Savills residential research team has conducted detailed analysis of 250,000 hectares of land held by the Central Government estate in England, for which data is available. The team estimates that 13,000 hectares (5%) are most suitable for residential development and that these sites could deliver 600,000 homes. Further analysis of assets held by the Greater London Authority (GLA) shows there is space for at least an additional 100,000 homes, bringing the known potential to 700,000 homes. However, these sites are only part of the public land story. A lack of data means that large parts of public land holdings are impossible to measure. NHS and Local Authority land, which Savills was not able to include in its analysis, has significant potential. In the absence of public records, the capacity of Local Authority land is not clear, but the firm estimates that this might be around one million, if assets are actively managed and estate densities are increased. Similarly, little data is available regarding NHS Land. However, based on market experience the firm knows that these sites include many prime developable locations with scope for intensification. Hence Savills best estimate for the number of additional homes that could be delivered through the reconfiguration and intensification of operational sites within the NHS estate could be 300,000. NHS Property Services, which controls just 11% of the whole estate, released 24 hectares of surplus land between April 2013 and July 2014 alone. ‘Big strides have been made to provide data on Central Government holdings but we urgently need to achieve a similar register of assets held by Local Authorities and NHS bodies,’ said Robert Grundy, head of housing, Savills housing division. ‘Only then will we be in a position to accurately assess the full potential both for… Continue reading →

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