Belfast Telegraph

Surveyors press for long-term land release plan to boost new housing

Stronger action is needed to free up land for the development of new homes, according to surveyors.

Research released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) found 59% of its members said brownfield land should be freed up for development and a third (33%) said developers should be forced to use "land banked" land to encourage more sustained and affordable housing.

Rics said a distinction should be made between developers who need a certain amount of land in their development pipeline "and the far fewer number of speculators who are sitting on land only to sell on at a profit".

It said that to make this difference clear, owners should develop the land within two to three years of receiving permission to build, or sell to those willing and capable to build on it.

When asked to single out the main obstacle to new housing development schemes, 59% of those surveyed said planning constraints and delays, 23% said market risks, 15% said political risks and 3% said a lack of skilled labour.

Some 86% of members who took part in Rics' residential survey were not expecting to market starter homes within the next 12 months. Rics said this suggested surveyors were not seeing evidence of a supply pipeline on the horizon.

It said a clear, long-term plan for the release of land should be issued.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at Rics, said: "These are things the government could do quickly that could boost the number of starter homes being built in the near future.

"However, we must be clear that not all starter homes will be affordable homes.

"Building more starter homes is a help, but it is only one way to tackle the huge social problem of the lack of affordable housing."

This week, the Building Societies Association (BSA) also suggested that a greater use of modern construction methods, such as building whole rooms offsite in a factory environment, could boost the construction of new homes.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: "This government is building a country that works for everyone which is why we have announced the largest affordable housing programme since the 1970s and doubled the budget to £8 billion.

"We have just announced plans to radically increase brownfield development and rejuvenate abandoned sites, including high quality housing for families in town centres.

"We will also be publishing a White Paper soon, that will set out further measures on how we can build more homes - a million by 2020."