Surplus or underused public land now owned by councils, central government and the NHS, could enable up to 2million new homes to be built in England, top agent Savills believes
Public land in the England could be used to build as many as 2million new homes, says leading global agent, Savills.
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 for the country’s growing population, says Savills.
But 250,000 hectares of land held by the Central Government estate in England could deliver 600,000 homes, Greater London Authority land another 100,000 and possibly 300,000 from surplus NHS and 1million more from local authority land, the agent estimates, although more transparency is needed to come up with an accurate figure.
Robert Grundy, Savills’ Head of Housing, who is speaking today at Savills’ Annual Housing Conference in London, says, “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. Only then will we be in a position to accurately assess the full potential both for housing delivery and income generation for the public bodies currently holding the land.
“The proposed increased responsibilities of the Housing and Communities Agency (HCA) to manage public sector land disposals proposed in the Infrastructure Bill currently going through parliament could help streamline the property disposal process and improve further the number of housing units built, but it remains to be seen if the proposals will be fully utilised by all public sector bodies.”
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 as well as market knowledge of the potential for development on NHS and Local Authority land.
The public estate held by central and local government in England is worth £370billion according to figures from the Cabinet Office, but there is little clarity regarding what form these assets take.
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 and estimates that 13,000 hectares (5%) are most suitable for residential development and could deliver 600,000 homes.
But 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 1million, 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 and it could yield 300,000 homes. NHS Property Services, which controls just 11% of the whole estate, released 24 hectares of surplus land between April 2013 and July 2014 alone.
The government has so far pledged to release enough public land on which to build 100,000 new homes within the 2011-2015 Spending Review Period and land capable of delivering 68,000 homes has already been released.
Alex Dawson, Savills’ Head of Public Sector Consultancy, says, “It is vital that we build on this momentum. This will need clarity from the Government that all gains from land disposal will benefit the property seller and not be paid into the treasury coffers.”
By Adrian Bishop, Editor, OPP Connect