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City Hall plans land grab for affordable housing drive

Thursday, 07/09/2017 GMT+7

The money made from selling the assembled land to house-builders will be recycled to buy further land for housing. City Hall is looking to get work started on 90,000 new affordable homes by 2021.

He plans to recruit a team of deal makers with technical expertise to identify and prepare the new sites. Compulsory purchase orders will be served wherever the mayor feels it necessary to secure land.

A particular feature of the strategy is the inclusion of smaller sites in outer London, supporting support for small- and medium-sized building firms.

Alongside this drive for building, mayor Sadiq Khan's draft housing strategy also includes plans to bring together London’s private tenants and landlords to develop a new ‘London Model’ of renting.

The new approach follows the mayor’s recent sale of the derelict Webbs Industrial Estate in Waltham Forest, which will shortly become a new neighbourhood with 330 new affordable homes to be built by Catalyst and Swan housing associations, together with workshops for local business start-ups.

The initiative has been welcomed by Barry Mortimer, director of the London branch of the Federation of Master Builders. He said: “If we’re to build the number of new homes Londoners need, we must urgently make much better use of the many existing small sites that are dotted all over London. In doing so, we will the strengthen the capacity of SME house-builders to build more new homes and perhaps even attract some new SME firms into the market. FMB research has consistently shown that a lack of available and viable land is the main factor stunting the ability of small builders to deliver more homes. Indeed, over half of SME house builders believe that the number of small site opportunities is, if anything, decreasing.”

Mr Mortimer continued: “We therefore welcome strongly the strategy’s proposal for a presumption in favour of appropriate residential development on small sites, which goes further than proposed changes to national policy as laid out in the government’s housing white paper. The ‘Small Sites, Small Builders’ programme will also link up public land owners with small builders, which could make accessing public land easier for small firms. We also welcome moves which will mean that less of the community infrastructure levy is payable upfront on small sites. This will really help with cash flow for smaller builders and make the economics of small scale development slightly easier. The London housing strategy therefore marks a step forward in empowering smaller house-builders in London. In order to reach the 50,000 new homes London needs to build each year, this renewed emphasis on small sites is vital.”

He then added a substantial caveat: “However, all such progress could be undermined if the mayor fails to protect small sites from onerous levels of developer contributions. National planning guidance states that planning obligations should not be sought from developments of 10 units or fewer, but implementation of this policy in London is patchy at best. Unless the mayor, and London boroughs, recognise the need to minimise burdens on the very smallest developments, SME builders will continue to struggle to enter the market.”


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