Selling off surplus public sector land could lead to more than 100,000 new homes in London

Guy Bentley
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Land is lying unused while rents soar

Over 100,000 homes could be built in London surplus public land was sold back into the marketplace. The findings are one of a number of points made in an analysis of the London Land Commission that was set up George Osborne in February.

Business group London First and law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, believe that thanks to the powers contained in the Infrastructure Act the Commission will able to record efficiently and dispose of public land that is serving no useful purpose.

The average London borough has around £17m of surplus land, but local authorities have little incentive to return the land to market to the private sector. Public bodies ranging from Transport for London to the NHS also have significant land holdings in the capital many of which could be used to help relieve the capital's crippling housing shortage.

No one knows the exact amount of surplus land laying dormant in London, but research suggests that more than 100,000 houses could be built on land owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) alone.

Today's report recommends that a realistic target is set for discovering how much public land is surplus and suitable for housing, to give some urgency to the commission.

In addition, a new rolling yearly target for transferring the land for release. The report suggests an admittedly "arbitrary" target of between 10 and 15 per cent.

"With the population of London increasing by 100,000 a year, the capital is in the midst of a housing crisis," said Jonathan Seager, head of housing policy at London First.

"Action is needed on unused and underutilised public sector because its estimated that 40 per cent of brownfield land suitable for development in the country remains in public sector ownership," he added.

To ensure land useful land isn't hoarded by the public sector London First and Berwin Leighton Paisner would like to move to a situation where a statutory duty is placed on all authorities to "maintain an accurate, legible, searchable pan-London register of all surplus and potentially surplus land and assets on an e-PIMS equivalent London database."

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