Land grab: will the release of HCA assets boost economic activity?

Joe Sarling discusses the HCA's Land development and disposal plan and the possible impact on city growth.

The Homes and Communities Agency published their Land development and disposal plan which presents how it will use and release their land to boost economic activity.

Over 40% of the allocated land area listed for commercial, residential or mixed use is found in local authorities within cities. Furthermore, around 15% of land is within ‘buoyant’ or ‘robust’ cities (using the city typologies from Private Sector Citieswhich includes 43 hectares in Crawley and 14 hectares in Milton Keynes. This is a good sign as these cities are often hampered by planning restrictions and land supply which restricts economic growth.

HCA allocated sites in Crawley

Source: Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012, sites from HCA Land Development and Disposal Plan 2012/3 (April 2012)

At the other end of the spectrum, ‘struggling’ cities have around 1% of the land listed for release. It will be important for these cities to manage their commercial and residential stock in order to promote realistic levels of economic growth and improve standards of living for residents.

Allocated land within cities

12-05 HCA land grab
Note: This is the land allocated for commercial, residential and mixed use. The analysis excludes land for community areas and open space. It also excludes allocated sites with unconfirmed area size.

Interestingly, the HCA have said they will dispose of landholdings on a single site basis with the exception of neighbouring sites potentially being sold as a package. The key issue here is whether this means buyers will hold out only for the desirable areas leaving other areas lagging.

Perhaps an alternative method would be to group sites together to form a portfolio across the risk spectrum. This would reduce the possibility of only cherry-picking the best sites and would allow riskier sites to be developed.

It will be interesting to see when and how often the sites become available to buy, the procurement approach for the various sites as well as who steps forwards to invest.

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