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Clark spells out plans to build 150,000 homes on government land

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New communities secretary Greg Clark has reiterated a target set by his predecessor to build 150,000 homes on land released by the central government departments and agencies by 2020

In March, former DCLG chief Pickles announced the new target after claiming the government had beaten its initial target of releasing land for 100,000 homes by 2015.

Clark committed himself to the figure this week, speaking ahead of the first meeting of a dedicated ministerial housing taskforce.

He said: ‘The scale of our ambition is clear – to release enough surplus and redundant public sector land for 150,000 homes over the next five years.
‘I want to see departments going further and faster than before, starting right away, to loosen their grip on sites that are standing idle and to turn them over for house building.’

He also urged local authorities to get involved in the initiative.

‘Councils are significant landowners and town halls should be looking at their estate, particularly brownfield sites, and thinking about how they could make better use of their holdings by releasing land for new homes for their communities,’ he said.

Andrew Forth, RIBA policy and public affairs manager, welcomed the government’s target.

However, he said that local authorities must play a role in determining how land released for development is used to maximise long-term social, environmental and economic value as part of their local plans.

‘A detailed design brief should accompany all strategic public sector land disposal and set out the standards expected for any development, he said.

‘The sale should be appraised not only in terms of cost but on the quality of development proposed and the strategic vision for the site.’

Ghislaine Halpenny, assistant director of planning and development at the British Property Federation, said the new target was ‘ambitious’.

She said: ‘It is good to set your sights high but there also needs to be a realistic approach. Not all public sector land will be suitable for development.

‘There are also barriers to be overcome, such as dealing with contamination and paying for infrastructure requirements.’
Councils need to concentrate on their employment development targets as much as housing ones, she added.

She said: ‘This is very much seen as a housing initiative but it is important to create communities, not just houses. People living in these houses need to be able to work and spend their leisure time nearby.’
The Department for Communities and Local Government and regeneration quango the Homes and Communities Agency, have already identified around 150 sites for 14,000 new homes towards the new target.
A housing bill, announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech, will require local authorities to establish and maintain a register of brownfield land suitable for housing development, including their own land.

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