Following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that councils will be required to create and maintain a register of brownfield land suitable for housing development; Greg Clark the Communities Secretary is urging Whitehall departments to "loosen their grip" on empty sites and could be released for new housing.
Clark was speaking ahead of the government’s dedicated housing taskforce’s first meeting, saying his target is to release enough land for 150,000 homes by 2020.
As well as pressuring Whitehall departments, the communities secretary is calling on English councils to look at the land that they have and use some of the sites - particularly brownfield ones - to provide new homes in their communities.
Greg Clark stated; “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.” “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.
“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.”
Housing minister Brandon Lewis added: “Over the next five years, we’re going to go further and faster – but where Whitehall is leading, town halls should follow, ensuring their land can be put to good use to deliver new homes across the country.”
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has welcomed the move to get more public sector land into housing use.
Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said it would be a; "huge help if public sector land was made available at lower prices than private sector land. In the past long negotiations over necessary infrastructure and affordable housing on “public” land have severely delayed housing delivery.”
Some councils are already releasing land. Surrey County Council is working with Spelthorne Borough Council and the Ministry of Justice to free up land for the provision of 300 new homes, while Bristol City Council has set aside land at Ashton Gate Sidings for 200 new homes.