Wednesday, 8 June 2011 10:54 AM
Housing minister Grant Shapps announced this morning that the government will release enough land for 100,000 new homes to be built.
According to the minister, the public-sector-owned land, which will be available for sale to builders in its entirety by 2015, is more than twice the size of Leicester.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has appointed the Public Expenditure Committee, a cabinet committee chaired by Francis Maude, to “go through each department’s plans with a fine-tooth comb, to make sure every possible site is made available for house-building.”
A map depicting all the land and buildings owned by public bodies across England and Wales is set to be launched later this year. It is aimed at helping residents who would like to take up the Community Right to Reclaim Land and apply for unused areas to be released for new homes and community projects.
Grant Shapps said: “As one of the country's biggest landlords, the Government has a critical role to play in making sites available for developers so we can get the homes this country needs built.
“Over the coming months, property specialists will work to make sure no stone is left unturned and no site is left unused, and every department's plans will come under the close scrutiny of a Cabinet committee.”
However, shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck expressed doubts about the plans. “There will be questions about where this land will be, and whether it will be in areas where people want to live or where there is a need for new housing. And less than a year after the government cut funding for new affordable housing by 60 per cent, it is unclear whether these homes will be affordable to young working families who want somewhere of their own to live.”
The Labour minister continued, “There is also no indication that this Tory plan involves any element of low-cost home ownership and the Home and Communities Agency has already made clear that the government will not support any new developments for social rented homes.”
Meanwhile, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) welcomed the announcement but said Shapps hadn't gone far enough. Brian Berry, the FMB's director of external affairs, said: "It is pleasing to hear the Government is being ‘ambitious’ about the total amount of land it will release. However, the Government must also recognise that the financial crisis has severely restricted the availability of finance for developments and mortgages. In a recent survey of FMB members, 67% of those building homes stated that a lack of mortgage finance was preventing potential clients from buying from them, and 79% stated that the lack of mortgage finance was causing the business to slow the rate at which it builds homes."
Berry added that the FMB was particularly concerned about the extra burden the plans would place on "already over-stretched" local planning authorities, saying that a worst-case scenario could see work grinding to a halt.