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Prescott heralds 'new era' for house building

Deputy prime minister John Prescott is preparing to unveil a mammoth house-building programme on publicly owned land.

Prescott's statement at the Labour Party Conference last week, that the ODPM has located space for 1,600 new homes, is only the beginning of a building boom, the AJ has learnt. The land - discovered as part of a joint Housing Corporation and English Partnership initiative - signals the beginning of an explosion in new housing on land currently disused by the government.

A source close to new planning minister Keith Hill said the 1,600 homes represent just the 'tip of the iceberg'.He said there could be up to '10 times as much land yet to come', a move that would 'make a serious indentation on the current housing crisis'. It would also make a substantial contribution to the massive house-building targets set out in the government's Communities Plan, the source added.

A spokeswoman for English Partnerships confirmed that the search is on for more land. 'I admit that the original figure of 1,600 did not seem that impressive, ' she said. 'But that is because it is the beginning of something much, much bigger. I am not prepared to speculate about how much land there might be coming forward, but watch this space.'

The latest announcement is the first success for the 'Housing Partnership' - the collaborative body announced by Prescott at last year's Urban Summit. Its stated target is the 'delivery of new homes quickly and cost effectively'. Prescott described the latest 1,600-home tranche as heralding the 'beginning of a new era' that will help to 'bridge the gap between the inadequate supply and the increasing demand'.

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