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Government to help smaller builders build thousand of news homes

Stapleton Hall Road, north London by Solidspace
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The government will help smaller and medium-sized developers build thousands of new homes across the country as part of its ‘radical’ direct commissioning housebuilding policy

An initial wave of 13,000 homes will be directly commissioned by the government across five publicly owned sites that already have planning permission, with 40 per cent of these earmarked as Starter Homes. Among them is Old Oak Common in north-west London - the masterplan for which was rubberstamped by London mayor Boris Johnson last year (see AJ 04.11.15).

According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, the government hopes that offering sites with planning permission will enable smaller companies, currently unable to take on big projects, to help meet housebuilding targets.

The Conservatives have set out an ambition to build a million new homes by 2020.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said: ’We’re pulling out all the stops to keep the country building with a clear ambition to deliver a million homes by 2020 and support hard-working people into homeownership.

’Today’s radical new approach will mean the government will directly commission small and up-and-coming companies to build thousands of new homes on sites right across the country.’

The move will mark the largest housing project undertaken by central government since Margaret Thatcher and her then chancellor Michael Heseltine began the Docklands regeneration in the 1980s.

Of the 13,000 homes, 40 per cent will be sold as part of the government’s Starter Homes initiative, which offers first-time buyers under the age of 40 a 20 per cent discount on a home’s sale price.

The announcement follows a number of initiatives unveiled in chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review in November. These included a target to build 200,000 new Starter Homes by 2020.

The five sites earmarked for development are:

  • Connaught Barracks in Dover – a former MoD site
  • Northstowe in Cambridgeshire – a proposed new town
  • Lower Graylingwell in Chichester – an HCA acquired site
  • Daedelus on Waterfront in Gosport – part of a former MoD site
  • Old Oak Common in north-west London – a major regeneration project

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry hailed the government’s move, saying the availability of small sites was ‘the single biggest barrier to SME housebuilders increasing their output’.

He added: “It is also encouraging that the majority of these sites will already have planning permission in place, as obtaining permission is all-too-often a lengthy and protracted process; avoiding this time delay should help housebuilders increase their supply much more quickly.’


Paul Templeton of Baobab Developents
’We welcome any schemes that promote housebuilding and us smaller developers - even if they are scraps thrown from the big boys table. And I am wholeheartedly in favour of removing the planning process out of the equation. It is a clunky, bureaucratic machine, moving at its glacial pace, that deters and delays rather than promotes progress.

’However I’d then worry about the kinds of permissions that will be provided us - do we get a say in the designs or will be building thousands of bland, uninspiring homes? Either way, it is a step in the right direction and you can never argue with that.’

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of Home Builders Federation
’Housebuilding rates have been increasing at the steepest rates for decades, with additional supply reaching 171,000 last year. But we welcome the fact that the government is clearly prioritising housing supply rates, particularly with regard to streamlining the process of building homes on public sector land. If we are to address the chronic shortage of homes that has developed over decades, strong government leadership is essential. Allowing smaller builders to access publicly-owned sites is a welcome move that must be part of wider set of measures to assist SME builders and get more ‘players on the pitch’.

’Direct commissioning will only be successful if it speeds up the release of public sector land and results in more housebuilding than would have happened using the more traditional methods of public-sector land disposal.

’A lower-risk model could allow larger builders to increase their output still further, while also enabling smaller house builders to increase output. Both have an essential role to play. It is not a question of either/or.’

Rhian Kelly, CBI business environment director
’The lack of available land and drawn-out planning processes are serious impediments to small and medium-sized housebuilders looking to grow and scale up. This announcement, if successfully rolled out across the country, should be a real spur to our ability to build more homes.


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