Land Promoter Partners – A Great Idea but Does it go far Enough?

Releasing public sector land for development is essential if we are to meet the demand for new homes of all types. 6% of freehold land in England and Wales is publicly owned, rising to 15% in major urban areas. Over 60% of that land is owned by local authorities.
Despite a clear policy to accelerate the release of public sector land there are significant challenges. Local authorities lack large in-house teams and the financial resources to tackle the planning and infrastructure challenges of unblocking the land.

The Land Promoter Partner concept pioneered by Central Bedfordshire Council is a positive way forward. Private sector partners bring the finance, skills and experience needed to manage the planning and disposal of surplus council land.

The partners invest in planning and consultants’ fees, and site infrastructure where access roads or utility connections are needed to unlock development potential.

Any innovative model that brings private sector finance and expertise to the challenge is welcome. Working with trusted partners is definitely the way forward. But isn’t there scope to be a bit more ambitious?

If we’re talking partners, how about the house builders? More importantly, how about the communities that will be affected by the developments and may end up living in the houses? Surely they too have a significant stake.

True asset management involves the 3Ps: People, Place, Property. All three must come together to answer critical questions:

● Does the proposed housing really reflect what local people need and want?

● Where are the people living in the houses going to work, be educated, shop, play and so on?

Local communities are much better placed to answer these questions than experts who won’t be living with the consequences. People need houses; but they also need jobs and a sense of ownership. They are then part of a long-term solution that values and looks after the communities they live in. This is a true asset management strategy.

Positive early engagement of local communities can also help de-risk sites, leading to fewer restrictions and objections.

Housing providers should have to adopt a truly local plan. One that is devised for the community, with the community, and wherever possible delivered by the community. Housing shouldn’t be something that is imposed by people who ‘know better’, however well intentioned.