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National Audit Office queries public sector land disposal progress

Published: Thursday, 21st July 2016

Report finds that the Department for Communities and Local Government has, at most, achieved eight per cent of its overall commitment to dispose of enough public sector land for 160,000 homes by 2020.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has made progress in setting up its new programme to release enough public sector land for 160,000 homes by 2020, but so far only land with capacity for an estimated 8,580 homes has been disposed of, according to the latest assessment by the National Audit Office.

The public spending watchdog has acknowledged that the department has committed to monitoring the progress of land development including the number of homes built, a subject of past criticism by the NAO.

The watchdog’s latest report found that, in the first full ten months of the new programme, the department has only met five per cent of its commitment. Additional land with capacity for another 4,853 homes (an additional three per cent) has been disposed of.

The NAO noted that he Homes and Communities Agency, responsible for collecting information from government departments, has not yet however obtained sufficient evidence that this additional land will actually be developed for housing.

In order for DCLG to achieve its commitment, departments must dispose of more sites in each of the next four years than in the best performing year of the previous land disposals programme. 

The NAO said that government departments have so far identified additional land with capacity for a further 104,461 houses, or 65 per cent of the programme. However, a little over half of the housing capacity is on so-called “high risk” site where there is at least one issue preventing the exchange of contracts that is unlikely to be resolved by 2020.

Departments told the NAO that many of these sites are high risk because the land is still in operational use, and that decisions on whether the land is surplus will be taken later in this Parliament.

View the press release

Roger Milne