UK chancellor George Osborne said that the government would designate 20 housing zones on brownfield sites outside London, rather than the 10 zones initially proposed by the chancellor in June 2014. The government said the housing zones would deliver up to 34,000 new homes and announced that it would be working with eight of the unsuccessful shortlisted councils to deliver up to a further 11,000 homes outside the housing zones scheme.
The successful bidders will receive government loans towards the cleaning up of large brownfield sites and the delivery of infrastructure to enable their rapid development. They will also be able to access borrowing at reduced rates and planning support from the government’s Advisory Team for Large Applications.
“Unsurprisingly, given that the majority of political parties have cited a brownfield first or focused planning agenda, measures have been introduced in the Budget to encourage further brownfield development,” said planning expert Rebecca Warren of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. “Other parties are also starting to consider tangible measures to deliver the large volumes of housing promised by all parties.”
“However, it is difficult to see how brownfield development alone will become the panacea to the huge numbers required,” said Warren. “A political focus by all parties on the need to review the green belt is long overdue as without this and the construction of homes on poor quality green belt land the housing shortage will continue beyond the next parliament.”
Osborne also announced that the government would immediately commence the implementation of a new model of public land management, creating “a new central body or bodies” to own and manage government property and land assets. He said government departments would “pay … market-level rents for the freehold assets they own”, encouraging them to “rationalise the space they occupy” and “release land and property for productive use, including building new homes”.
The government confirmed its support for the development of a garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent. It said that it expected an urban development corporation (UDC), to lead development of the garden city, to be operational by April and that the chancellor had asked the UDC “to work with the government to produce a prioritised, realistic and costed plan for infrastructure needs at Ebbsfleet”. A statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government following the Budget confirmed the first five appointments to the UDC’s board.
The Budget also repeated government pledges to set up an independent Housing Finance Institute to help councils and their partners to access finance and investment; to provide “capacity funding to support Bicester’s ambition to become a garden town”, although no detail was provided on the source or target of the funding; and to explore the potential use of direct commissioning for new housing, using the development of the new town of Northstowe in Cambridgeshire as a model.
“Whilst these measures to increase housing supply are welcomed, the reality is they will not come close to addressing the massive under supply of housing in the UK,” said Warren. “It is widely acknowledged that the UK needs to be supplying at least 250,000 new homes every year. The next government is going to need to introduce much more radical measures if it wants to get close to tackling the UK’s housing crisis.”
Last updated: Tue 24 Feb 2015