Government pledges ‘high-level property panel’ pushing land for homes

Set up by the end of the present parliament, the panel will prioritise the release of government land for house building.

South Lakeland

Government has pledged to set up its planned ‘high-level property panel’ prioritising the release land for housing by the end of the present parliament.

Releasing the latest government estate strategy this week, Oliver Dowden MP, parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, said helping unlock local authority land alone could release over 7,000 new homes through a new £45m Land Release Fund administered by the MHCLG.

The ambition, said Dowden, was to release enough land for at least 160,000 homes and help deliver £5 billion of receipts by 2023, supporting the delivery of the overall target of 1 million homes by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025 – working with the MHCLG and Homes England.

“We are also taking steps to enhance transparency around land ownership, so everyone knows if government is holding a site that could be better used, and by publishing details of receipts from government property sales each year,” Dowden said.

By the end of this Parliament, the strategy commits government to:

  • Establishing a new high-level property panel, comprising property delivery bodies across government to share expertise, explore common standards and help deliver key priorities including the release of land for housing
  • Engaging with local authorities earlier in the process when departments plan property sales
  • Publishing guidance on how and when this engagement should happen, giving councils early sight of disposal plans
  • Making it easier for industry to see sites coming to market, for example by enhancing the Government Property Finder website – an on-line guide to surplus government property for rent or sale
  • Supporting departments to better assess the comparative benefits of sales and wider economic, social and regenerative opportunities when disposing of property

Estimates suggest that the public sector owns more than one third of all developable sites in the UK.

Chair of Homes England Sir Edward Lister told the CHIC conference last month not to expect releases of surplus government land to be a panacea for home-building given the location and past use of so much of such land.

Steve Gell, Associate Partner with national property consultant, Carter Jonas, said the government drive to rationalise their own estate offered “considerable opportunities” for residential development.

“Achieving success for large scale estate rationalisation is incredibly complex but there are already examples outside of London where this has worked well, said Gell.

“Examples which have delivered modern and more efficient property for public services and more respectable working conditions for civil servants whilst at the same time releasing land and buildings for new residential and mixed-use schemes and generating employment opportunities.

“After all, any Government estate change should be delivering improved space and service improvement as a priority.

“As always, achieving these goals will require more effective public-private sector partnerships which the Government will also need to address but getting this right can bring long term benefits for generations to come,” he said.

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