In response to today’s Budget and Strategic Land Review (SLR) update, Roger Tustain, Managing Director of UK town planning, regeneration and development consultancy Nexus Planning Ltd, urges the release of public land for house-building to be stepped up.
Through the SLR the Government is aiming to deliver at least £5 billion of land and property disposals between 2015 and 2020. In February Housing Minister Kris Hopkins MP reported that 430 Government-owned sites had been released across the country.
Also in February figures from the Department of Health (DoH) revealed that 629 parcels of land, totalling 909 hectares, were deemed surplus to requirements on 1 October 2012, compared to the 817 hectares recorded on 1 January that year.
Nexus Planning is currently advising North Essex Partnership NHS Trust and the Homes and Communities Agency on the largest single plot to be identified over the period covered by the data – the 58 hectare site of Severalls Hospital in Colchester. The 100-year-old site is currently under offer and set to provide space for 1,500 homes, with proceeds set to fund several new inpatient units.
Roger Tustain said: “Some government departments and local authorities need to get on and follow the lead of the Chancellor and Whitehall. They need to be more assertive and re-configure property portfolios to release appropriate under-used land assets to the market to best serve the needs of the community through the delivery of much needed new housing.
“There remains a significant estate of government-owned land, including Ministry of Defence and Health Authority land, which is surplus to requirement. We see plenty of inefficient publicly-owned land and buildings that could be disposed of with the proceeds used to support public sector budgets.
“However, while publicly-owned land may be deemed surplus to operational requirements, this should not be a mandate to simply argue that it should all be used for housing development. Good and sustainable planning relies upon identifying housing, jobs, leisure and community uses in locations that are well related to one another. Ad hoc disposal of sites for housing outside of any well thought-out planning framework or plan will result in isolated and detached communities without the necessary social or community infrastructure to support them.
“Also, public sector land disposals should be used to champion good sustainable design as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. Leading by example on design quality is critical and a watering down of design quality simply to achieve a higher capital receipt on public sector land will prove to be counter-productive to the long term aim of delivering sustainable communities where people want to live.
“The release of the Severalls Hospital site for new housing is the result of a forward-thinking partnership which recognises that much-needed new housing can be delivered for local communities through the release of public land. This is capturing local expenditure and ultimately creating a virtuous circle of growth and investment.”
Nexus Planning is a national planning and regeneration consultancy operating from London, Manchester and Weybridge in Surrey. It advises both public and private sector clients on land use and planning, and provides a service that covers policy and strategic planning advice through to detailed development management and implementation.
Nexus Planning was formed in 2013 out of global architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan.
Distinguished by our global reach with 16 studios across world centres, unrivalled diversity with 500+ design experts and distinctive client focus with over 75% income from repeat business, Broadway Malyan creates world-class and fully-integrated cities, places and buildings to unlock lasting value and deliver a ‘return on design’.