Housebuilders are claiming a victory over John Prescott after the latest official figures cast doubt on his drive to put new houses on brownfield sites.
English Partnerships, the government's regeneration agency, has revealed that of the country's total 65,000ha of brownfield stock, just 11 per cent can be used for new housing.
That equates to three years' supply at best for England, and to just 18 months in the South East, the region suffering the greatest shortage of housing. The House Builders Federation blamed increased land tax and limited spending on infrastructure for the lack of suitable sites.
It has branded the English Partnerships report a 'serious blow' for the government's brownfield strategy, which is driven by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
'It is concerning that, with strategy now well in place, the vital detail needed to establish whether house building can take place is only now being examined, ' said HBF spokesman Pierre Williams.
'The industry is keen to develop brownfield land and so reduce pressure on greenfield sites. But the extent of this regeneration depends on a realistic assessment of how much the country is prepared to pay to make this land viable. Squeezing developers to the point where house building becomes unviable is quite obviously not the answer, ' he added.