Government provides extra £30m to help unlock land for new homes, but does policy need to be 'more ambitious'?

In a speech at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference, Cabinet office minister Lord Agnew has announced that the government is boosting its Land Release Fund (LRF) and the One Public Estate (OPE) programme with an additional £30m.


The funding will help release surplus public sector land to make way for thousands of new homes and support local economies to bounce back from the pandemic.

The LRF — which targets small sites with a focus on supporting SME builders — will offer councils the opportunity to bid for £20m for remediation works and infrastructure to bring land forward for housing.

The OPE programme will provide £10m, supporting the earliest stages of development.

New and existing partnerships will be able to bid for practical support in collaboration with central government and other public sector partners, which deliver homes, jobs, efficiencies and improved public services.

“By taking a fresh look at how we use buildings and release surplus public property and land, the OPE programme has helped to create thousands of new homes and jobs and breathed new life into communities,” stated Lord Agnew.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher added that delivering much-needed new homes across the country was “central to the mission of this government”.

“This new funding will help councils right across England to turn unloved, unused land into new homes and communities where they are needed most.

“It is an important part of how we are working with local government and the housing industry at every level to support our recovery from the impact of the pandemic.”

Funding will be allocated in the current financial year and is now available for bids.

The news follows measures to transform unused land for homes, including the announcement in August that the government is investing £360m in Mayoral

Combined Authority areas through its £400m Brownfield Fund, to deliver 26,000 new homes while protecting greenfield sites.

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, welcomed the government’s efforts, but felt that policy should be “more ambitious” to really kickstart a housing boom.

“Ministers must be proactive in bringing land forward and designating parcels exclusively for factory-built homes.

“This will help accelerate the pace of housing procurement and delivery in the UK — cutting construction programmes by almost half — which will be pivotal to any post Covid-19 recovery plans.

With house prices defying the doom-and-gloom expectations that characterised the market prior to the summer months, affordability levels continue to fall.

“Housing associations have a key role to play in using their own funds and land to boost the supply of affordable housing, and should be encouraged to collaborate closely with Homes England and other stakeholders.”

The LRF currently supports 73 council projects which are on track to release land for more than 6,000 homes by next March, including:

  • Broadland District Council in Norfolk was awarded funding to deliver improvements, such as site highways works and the implementation of a surface-water drainage strategy and pumping station. 22 homes at Rosebery Road, Great Plumstead have now been completed by the council’s housing company
  • the Griffin regeneration area in Blackburn was awarded funding to carry out new highways access and land remediation work to accelerate the release of brownfield land for 140 new homes. This has helped to make the site viable, supporting regeneration of the local area and bringing forward a scheme of new family homes for rent and sale.

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