Barratt, Countryside and Keepmoat first to benefit from government scheme on six HCA sites

Developers Barratt, Countryside and Keepmoat are among the first to benefit from a new government scheme to give developers free up-front access to public land in a pilot designed to build 3,000 homes across six Homes and Communities Agency-owned sites.

The pilot sites include the controversial 1,600-home redevelopment of the brutalist Robin Hood Gardens estate in Tower Hamlets, east London, which is being taken forward by Countryside with housing association Swan. The five other sites include the 585-home Park Prewett site in Basingstoke, on which Barratt’s David Wilson has already been selected, and the 372-home Spencer’s Park site in Hemel Hemsptead, jointly owned with the Crown Estate. Keepmoat will develop the 100-home Croppings site in Telford.

If successful, the “build now, pay later” policy, due to be launched today by housing minister Grant Shapps, could be expanded to see up to 60,000 homes over the next 10 years on 7,500ha of public land.

The idea of handing over land to developers at no cost was first announced in last week’s Budget, with the HCA able to claw back fees upon receipt of planning permission or start on site.

The Treasury is to force each department to publish a plan to release land holdings.

The communities department estimates that up to 40% of development land in the UK is in the hands of the public sector. Shapps said: “These [six sites] will be the first of many sites, as all government departments will now be asked to make land available for housebuilding and, crucially, will be held accountable for the homes built and jobs supported through this.”

The news emerged as HCA officials told developers that the £250m FirstBuy scheme announced in the Budget will use exactly the same terms and conditions as Labour’s New Build HomeBuy scheme, which was scrapped when the coalition assumed office.