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Boris leads charge on public sector ‘land grab’

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has called on the government to extend its plans to accelerate the release of disused public land to London, in order to unlock new development to help meet the capital’s housing needs.

Since taking on almost 700 hectares of surplus public land in 2012, the Mayor has already moved 87% of it into development. However, he believes there is still capacity for more homes across public land.

In particular the Mayor wants to extend the Infrastructure Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, to include London.

The bill set out plans to make it easier for public land across the country to be transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to boost housing supply in England.

But this excludes London because the HCA powers in the capital were devolved to the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the Localism Act in 2011.

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

At the site of the former Catford Greyhound Stadium in south London, which is now part of a £117m redevelopment of ‘Catford Green’ bringing more than a thousand jobs and 589 new homes to Lewisham, the Mayor has called for an amendment to Clause 21 of the Bill that will ensure the GLA can act as the government’s land disposal agency within London on the same basis as the HCA elsewhere in the country.

Johnson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work with the government and unlock the potential of the many empty and unused sites across the capital.

“Rapid redevelopment, regeneration and most importantly thousands of new homes for Londoners could be just around the corner given the necessary fast-tracking powers. Dramatic transformations, like the one we are witnessing in Catford, would be possible all over the city.”

New ONS figures also show a record annual house price increase of 20% in London, Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said the record prices rises were not surprising as London’s population was growing much faster than its housing stock.

She said: “With the city growing by around 100,000 people a year, demand is easily outstripping supply. London First has backed Boris Johnson’s calls today for the Mayor to be given powers to identify and dispose of surplus public land in London.”

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