Public land homes plan makes ‘slow start’

The Public Accounts Committee has said that the government has made a ‘slow start’ in releasing enough of its surplus land to build 160,000 new homes by 2020.

After a year of the programme, the committee said some progress had been made but claimed that many of the designated sites were still in use. So far, the government had disposed of five per cent of the required land.

The committee emphasised the current government’s success in monitoring the number of homes built as a result of the land sales and setting out each department's responsibilities. The Ministry of Defence is expected to free up land with capacity for 55,000 homes, the Department for Transport 38,000, the Department for Communities and Local Government 36,000 and the Department of Health 26,000.

The committee reported that by the end of March, the Department for Transport had disposed of just 0.2 per cent of its target, equalling enough for just 71 homes.

Such figures trigger the need for ‘significant acceleration’ in the latter years of current Parliament, if the target is to be met.

The report read: “All departments have made a slow start in releasing land, and so the success of the programme will depend on accelerating land sales significantly in the remaining years to 2020. For many of the sites identified for future sale there are a number of risks still to be addressed and it is far from certain that they will actually be made available for new homes, or when, and there is no contingency in the programme.”

Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: "There is a desperate need for new homes and public land is an irreplaceable asset. Taxpayers clearly have a right to know whether they are getting a good deal from its sale and how many homes are being built as a result."

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