Councils across the country can now team up with developers and bid for government assistance to build thousands of new homes on previously-developed land, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis announced today (13 August 2014).
Mr Lewis published the bidding criteria for a share of £200 million that will help create 10 housing zones on brownfield land where it will be easier to build new homes quickly.
The new zones, which will be outside London, should be large enough to deliver 750 to 2,000 properties, and will complement plans for 20 new housing zones in the capital. A separate bidding process for £400 million from the government and the Mayor is already underway.
Building on brownfield
Mr Lewis said housing zones will help councils boost housebuilding while making the best possible use of previously-developed land so the countryside is safeguarded.
Since 2010 the government has taken steps to ensure brownfield land and existing properties are prioritised for new housing development, including:
- abolishing the previous administration’s top-down regional strategies, which had earmarked green belt land for new development; the most recent official statistics show that the level of green belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989
- selling enough publicly-owned surplus brownfield land for 100,000 new homes by 2015
- launching a new Right to Contest so the public can challenge the government to sell its land and property
- offering financial incentives to reduce the number long term empty homes, which are now at a 10-year low
- introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use
Mr Lewis said councils should now follow the government’s lead. Across the country there is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and ministers expect to see planning permissions covering 90% of this land to be in place by 2020.
Increasing levels of housebuilding is a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan. Over 445,000 homes have been built since July 2010, and housing starts are now at their highest level since 2007.
The construction sector has been growing for the past 14 months, and companies are using this momentum to hire new workers at the fastest rate since records began 17 years ago.
Brandon Lewis said:
We need to build more homes in this country, but it’s also vital we protect the countryside that people rightly treasure. That’s why the government is offering councils a share of £200 million to prioritise development on brownfield land.
The new dedicated housing zones will transform disused and derelict land, and ensure the new homes are built quickly in a process that is more straightforward for councils and builders.
Councils who team up with developers to apply for funding will need to demonstrate a commitment to build the new homes quickly, and make the most of innovative building and delivery techniques such as off-site construction and custom-build.
Mr Lewis said he wanted bids to consider the example of LoCal homes in Walsall, which he visited yesterday, who are using off-site construction techniques to build new high-quality, affordable homes in as little as 1 day.
Bids should also consider whether housing zone sites can be linked to other government-backed initiatives such as the housing revenue account borrowing programme and the Custom Build Serviced Plots Loan Fund.
Speeding up development
Ministers are committed to accelerate development on sites suitable for housing. Local development orders are a flexible option councils can use to grant planning permission so construction can begin as soon as possible, and a separate £5 million funding pot is available to help councils consult on local development orders for brownfield land they identify.
Last week Mr Lewis also launched a £3 million fund to get work started on up to 85 new housing sites where development has already been agreed. Councils will use the funding to tackle outstanding planning issues that can cause delay and prevent builders getting on site and starting work quickly, helping to accelerate as many as 25,000 new homes.
Bidding will formally open on 22 August, at which point local authorities wishing to submit an application will be able to do so through the HCA’s partner portal. Associated bidding documentation templates will also be made available on 22 August 2014.