New public land powers for Boris welcomed

New legislation will give the mayor of London greater powers to seize public land for development.

The coalition’s Infrastructure Bill has empowered the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) to take ownership of public land. But securing plots held by various government departments, trusts and public bodies has proved difficult.

In London it is expected this will be undertaken by the Greater London Authority.

In many cities a lack of land as the biggest block to the development of new homes.

Last year, Ed Miliband hit out at housebuilders who he accused of “land banking”, threatening to seize land in a threat widely ignored by the industry.

But an announcement expected today from Boris Johnson, mayor of London, will set out his new powers with the expectation that this can help unlock new development across the capital.

John Harding, partner at Daniel Watney, said:

“This move will doubtlessly evoke squirms from some public sector chiefs, but something has to give. In the wake of planning reforms, the one thing holding up development in London is land supply. It’s no secret that getting hold of land owned by other government departments has been a huge problem for both Boris and the HCA. The default position of each department is that they invariably fight their own corners; so while housing might be in short supply, local politicians often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when the MoD for example insists on selling land to the highest bidder rather than throwing it into the pot.

“Boris may have come in for some criticism on affordable housing targets, but together with his deputy Richard Blakeway, he has overseen a boom in development across the capital. The key now is to ensure this continues and that the benefits are balanced for all.”