Berkeley Group chairman to lead government advisory group with Sir Bob Kerslake

Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley, and communites department permanent secretary Sir Bob Kerslake are to run an advisory group to help speed up the release of public sector land.

Pidgley’s appointment was unveiled in the small print of today’s announcement by prime minister David Cameron of a new housing strategy, designed to help first time buyers and aid the construction of thousands of new homes.

Prime minister David Cameron said in October that the government wanted to bring forward sites for 100,000 new homes on surplus public land, with the idea forming a key prong of today’s strategy. As of last week, land for 83,500 homes had been identified, but the process for bringing those forward is yet to be outlined.

Pidgley said: “There’s a real determination from the government to bring forward public sector land, and I’ve been asked to look at it from a developers point of view. Now there may not be anything we can do to improve it, but we’re going to look at the process, how it can be simplified and what are the obstacles in the way of releasing public land.”

Pidgley said he was only invited to chair the group on Friday, and did not yet have a full brief for the advisory group, and other members had not been appointed.

He said he will work with Bob Kerslake in leading the advisory group. Kerslake, formerly chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), will take up the role despite his forthcoming move, announced last week, to head the whole civil service.

The strategy says: “We will be looking in detail at how we can unlock the release of and maximise development opportunities on key surplus public sector sites. We will focus on sites that have the potential to deliver significant numbers of new homes but which face infrastructure, planning or site mitigation challenges which are preventing their timely disposal.

“To help us with this work and provide practical advice, we will bring together a small advisory group of experts led by Tony Pidgley, Chairman of Berkeley Group, in early 2012.”

Today’s housing strategy says the HCA will publish a prospectus inviting developers and councils to bid for public land in the next few weeks.

Pidgley added that Berkeley will be looking to take advantage of the Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee scheme also announced with the new strategy today.