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Government frees up £54m to release land for housing

Words: Laura Edgar
Brownfield land / Roger Smith

The government has launched a £54 million package that aims to transform local communities and release land for thousands of new homes.

The package is part of a new cross-government partnership to make smarter use of government-owned property in England.

Of the money, £45 million comes from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) Land Release Fund, which has been launched in partnership with the Cabinet Office and the Local Government Association’s (LGA) One Public Estate Programme.

The government said it would ensure that local councils release some of their unused or surplus land for housing, helping to meet its ambition to unlock enough council-owned land for at least 160,000 homes by 2020.

Councils are now able to bid for the funding, which could be used for land remediation and small-scale infrastructure.

In addition, One Public Estate is making £9 million available to support councils to deliver property-focused programmes. By 2020, councils on the programme are expected to have delivered £615 million in capital receipts, £158 million in running costs saved, 44,000 new jobs and the release of land for 25,000 homes.

The partnership between the DCLG and One Public Estate aims to give local authorities greater access to support from across government to release more land efficiently.

Alok Sharma, housing and planning minister, said: “To build the homes this country needs, we need to increase the supply of land available to build more homes, more quickly. As a major landowner, local authorities have a crucial role to play in this task.

“Through this innovative cross-government partnership, we will be able to work with councils much more effectively, helping them to meet local housing needs and transform local areas.”

Lord Porter, chairman at the LGA, said: “Councils are committed to building the new homes their communities need and I’m pleased to see the announcement of the Local Authority Land Release Fund as part of this next funding round. It’s great to see two government programmes aligning to offer a more coherent programme to our local communities.”

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, told The Planner: “We welcome the use of underused public land for housing purposes and for the release of money to assist in making land fit for purpose. However caution should be expressed for two reasons: firstly it may be in the best interests of a place for its assets to remain in public ownership and generate long term revenue, and secondly if the highest capital receipt is pursued to the exclusion of all other objectives, the risk is that the homes may not be affordable homes.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, said the programme is a significant boost for local councils to release unused or surplus land for much-needed housing.

However, she said the DCLG “must ensure the funding is released effectively and at speed if this initiative is to truly support the government reach its housing targets by 2020”.

Alongside this, the government must drive forward the promised changes in the housing white paper, such as the amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework and the increase of planning fees, “to give local councils the impetus to strategically plan for and deliver a range of housing tenures”.

Image credit | Roger Smith