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Funds launched to overcome land contamination and infrastructure setbacks

Words: Laura Edgar
Funds to get houses built quicker launched / iStock-803206308

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has announced two new government funds to speed up the housebuilding process.

Homes England will be able to use the funds to help the government deliver its promise of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The government proposes that the funds should address problems such as land contamination, infrastructure requirements and complex land ownership that prevent homes being built “where they are needed most”.

The £1.3 billion Land Assembly Fund will be used to acquire land that needs work and prepare it for the market. The government says this will make it less risky for developers to invest in it and build homes. Outside of London, this work will be undertaken by Homes England.  

The Small Sites Funds, which is worth £630 million, aims to help public landowners and local authorities that are struggling to build on land in their area. Money will go towards getting the right infrastructure in places quicker on stalled sites.

The government added that it would work with the Greater London Authority to help guarantee that the funds deliver additional homes in the capital.

Brokenshire said the government needed to act so that the homes the country requires are built.

“The availability of this investment will help us intervene in the sort of sites that aren’t yet ready to build on, or where developers have been put off.

“Developers can now get straight on with building homes, rather than overcoming the barriers to build. And in the same way we are also supporting councils that have land for housing, but need additional help to enable development.”

Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England, said: “Homes England is stepping in where the market isn’t working, unlocking land and releasing sites to those developers that are committed to providing homes at pace.

“The £1.9 billion… will mean we can invest in crucial infrastructure and help local authorities to get more homes built on public land.”

Homes England already working to bring forward sites

In July, The Planner reported on Homes England acquiring interests in land at Burgess Hill in Sussex. The landowners and promoters decided to dispose of their interest in the site to Homes England because of complexities surrounding different landownership and the need to deliver significant upfront infrastructure.

Homes England are currently working on a planning application for the site, and will then invest in infrastructure to make sure the site is ready for development.

Fergus Charlton, legal director at law firm TLT, welcomed the funds, but said they “will need to be combined with an increased propensity to utilise compulsory purchase powers if the funding is to yield its full potential”.

The funds are a step in the right direction for Mani Khiroya, managing director of Fruition Properties, but he highlighted the “crucial” role SMEs have in addressing the housing crisis.

“There is a wealth of overlooked and undeveloped land that could unlock over a million new homes across the UK. As smaller developers, we have the agility and creativity to adapt quickly to site challenges and tackle these more complex sites that often go ignored by the big homebuilders.”

Image credit | iStock