Labour May Back More Land Release for Development

In a preview of what may be a big debate leading up to the general election, the housing expert writing a Labour-commissioned report wants more land released for existing towns and cities to grow and council borrowing extended to allow more homes to be built.

Sir Michael Lyons – an independent analyst commissioned by Labour – says Britain “has developed urban containment to ritualistic proportions and devotes more land to golf courses than it does to homes”.

Writing in The Guardian, he says protracted delays in the release of land is the single biggest cause of Britain’s housing crisis and says his report, to be finished by September, may well recommend “urban extensions”, modelled on the postwar new-town expansion.

His article does not explicitly mention the Green Belt but the expansions he advocates may well need some of the belt to be relinquished for housing.

Lyons says may also recommend the cap on borrowing be lifted for councils with balance sheets that suggest they are fit to borrow more – and thus build, if required.

He says he is also considering more shared ownership to help more people at least partially own their own homes, introducing a transparent land registry to reveal the identities of land agents, developers and hedge funds driving up expectations on land price by taking options on land for development, making it easier for housing associations to build more homes, and introducing a new generation of quangos to help build the urban extensions he supports.