Three weeks after the Conservative’s election victory, the new Government is looking to the public sector to release some of the land needed to deliver on their commitment to help ‘hard working families’ enjoy ‘a home of their own’.
In his first press release as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark set down a clear challenge for the public sector:
‘‘I want to see departments going further and faster than before, starting right away, to loosen their grip on sites that are standing idle and to turn them over for house building. Councils are significant landowners and town halls should be looking at their estate, particularly brownfield sites, and thinking about how they could make better use of their holdings by releasing land for new homes for their communities.’’
Mr Clark went so far as to set a target, saying:
‘‘The scale of our ambition is clear – to release enough surplus and redundant public sector land for 150,000 homes over the next 5 years.’’
It is worth noting that between 2010 and 2015 the public sector released land for 103,000 new homes. Will government departments and councils be able to repeat this achievement, and then go further to reach the 150,000 homes target?
Of course this announcement is also about political mood music. Whilst building on green fields is anathema to many Conservative voters, a policy that seeks to build those homes on brownfield land and to crack down on perceived public sector waste is likely to have much more resonance.
We may have to wait some months before the political posturing is accompanied by solid detail – both on the public sector sites that could be released and, crucially, on whether DCLG will be tweaking the National Planning Policy Framework to make localism and neighbourhood planning better at delivering new homes. The Housing Bill expected in the autumn should contain much of these details – will it be worth the wait?