Investigation finds that target for building on public land only measured ‘expected homes’ and not actual units built


An investigation by the National Audit Office has found the government failed to check whether developers actually built the 110,000 homes promised on public land sold to them in the last parliament.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said that the land sales, made to meet a Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) target of releasing land for 100,000 homes measured only measured a notional number of “expected homes”, and not actual homes built.

The NAO said it was unable to accurately estimate the number of homes actually built because information was never collected.

The report stated that there was no evidence to support the original creation of the 100,000-home target. “The NAO found no supporting documentation or economic evidence behind the target or how it was allocated to departments.

“Departments do not routinely monitor what happens to a site after disposal so there is no information on how many homes have been built on sold land.” The NAO also stated that the DCLG also included land for 15,740 homes which had already been disposed of as part of the new target.

The government also included land for 2,584 homes sold when it privatised Royal Mail and 8,199 homes from sale British Waterways, even if the sites were not actually developed.

In June 2011 then housing minister Grant Shapps announced that the coalition government would release public land to build 100,000 homes. The policy was part of the previous government’s plan to solve the housing crisis by freeing up public land for development.

Commenting on the report Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of Policy, said: “The NAO report has shown what was suspected by many. That releasing public land across so many departments and agencies would not be easy and wouldn’t result in the homes we needed, in the places people wanted to live.

“This is also disappointing news given the unambitious level of the target in the first place. 100,000 homes would not even represent half of single year’s need for new housing in Britain, let alone making any dent in the ten year shortage that remains outstanding.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds said: “Ministers have clearly made misleading claims regarding their progress on the release of public land.

“It is unbelievable that in order to meet their target for the release of public land for new homes, the Government has counted land that was released before the programme even started, including land sold under the last Labour Government going back to 1997. It also includes land belonging to the Royal Mail and British Waterways which may not even be developed.

“I am writing to the Secretary of State to demand a full explanation, including whether Ministers authorised the release of these figures. It is essential that Ministers provide answers if the public are to have trust in Government statements about its policies.”

The NAO recommended that the DCLG and the Homes and Communities Agency ‘share the lessons’ from the previous programme, and clarify how they intend to measure progress as well as monitor what happens to land after disposal.