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London Land Commission launched

Words: Laura Edgar

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and housing minister Brandon Lewis have launched the London Land Commission in an attempt to increase the level of house building in London.

The commission, coordinated by London City Hall, government and London boroughs, aims to free up surplus public land in the capital “to build the homes that the city so desperately needs”.

The first meeting, attended by London councils, NHS England, Transport for London and Network Rail, saw real estate company Savills appointed to compile the preliminary stages of what has been dubbed the ‘Domesday Book’ of brownfield land in London by the end of 2015.

London Councils’ executive member for housing and Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said it is “vital” that the project delivers “affordable homes for ordinary Londoners”.

“The efficient use of vacant land - whether owned by the mayor, Transport for London, boroughs, the NHS or private sector developers - is a key part of the solution.”

The Greater London Authority said the commission would identify priority area for future growth and “co-ordinate efforts to fast-track the process while ensuring a good return for the taxpayer and better regeneration sites across London”.

Johnson said it was “simply madness” to not act as quickly as possible to unlock brownfield land that has stood empty for years, building on work City Hall has already undertaken.

“The commission’s work will be vital in co-ordinating the efforts of a whole raft of public bodies to achieve this important goal, helping to cut through the red tape that has kept valuable land tied up for too long,” said Johnson.

Lewis added: “The London Land Commission will bring a joined-up approach to land release in the capital – regenerating brownfield land and providing more homes, whilst continuing to protect the green belt around our capital.”

Lucian Smithers, sales and marketing director at Pocket, property developers, told The Planner that while the commission is an encouraging step and something they have been calling for, "it must focus equal amounts of effort on the smaller sites as the larger ones."

Smithers continued: "Over the last thirty years the number of SME developers building less than 100 units a year has shrunk by 80 per cent, leaving the challenge of responding to London’s housing crisis up to larger ones who frequently ignore the small brownfield sites scattered across the capital."

Smithers said if City Hall wants to "ignite a renaissance for the small developer", it needs to take action to support them through the speedier release of public sector land.

"If it does not, small inner city brownfield sites will continue to lie vacant and properties will remain unaffordable for the aspirational first time buyers who keep our capital running."