The boss of Britain’s biggest housebuilder has called on the new Tory government to accelerate its sell-off of public sector land in order to help solve the country’s housing crisis.
Mark Clare, the chief of Barratt Developments, said the election outcome ushered in a “positive political and economic environment” for housing, with the Conservatives committed to delivering 250,000 cut-price starter homes and extending the Help to Buy scheme.
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But he cautioned the government not to “lose momentum” and to deliver on housing commitments set out in the pre-election manifesto, including the release of more public sector land to meet demand.
The Conservatives claim to have released enough surplus public sector land for 100,000 new homes in the last five years. The party has pledged to release enough land by 2020 for a further 150,000 homes.
“The state is the largest landowner in the country and if it’s not delivering its fair share then that means we could run into shortages of land as the output of the industry increases,” Clare told City A.M.
“The land market is still a good strong market and there are lots of good opportunities out there. But as output grows and therefore the land requirement increases, the public sector [must] do its bit – and that’s the Ministry of Defence, the NHS, local authorities as well as the Home and Communities Agency and central government.”
Clare added that at the top of the government’s agenda should be speeding up the planning process, addressing the skills shortage, and focusing on resourcing: “A lot of the local authorities have of course had a lot of cuts and there are more to come. The last thing we need is for planning departments to be hit too hard as it delays the point where we can deliver the new housing. So there is a lot for them to do and I hope we don’t see any lack of momentum here. The job isn’t done and to be honest if the industry is going to get some sort of numbers that politicians would like then we need these things to carry on and continue.”
Barratt shares rose 3.4 per cent yesterday after the group upgraded its forecast for the number of homes it expects to build this year.
Housebuilder and construction firm Galliford Try also posted a positive start to the year, its shares rising by 1.6 per cent. Shares in UK housebuilders have rallied on the outcome of the election result, after dipping in the days before the poll.