The London Land Commission has launched the first ever register of public land in London. The document, which lists 40,000 sites across the capital, has been called the Domesday Book of pbblic land, and holds details of property with the potential for 130,000 homes. The register has been made available as an interactive map on the City Hall website.
The commission was established a year ago, with a remit to develop a “robust” register of publicly owned land, gathering together information from a variety of sources. It is also tasked with establishing a strategy for prioritising land release, exploring opportunities for collaboration and accelerating housing supply, and developing investment to incentivise land release.
The commission says it is now working with site owners to “obtain the best possible housing development for Londoners, rather than selling with no obligations”. The process will also identify where adjacent sites could be drawn together for larger redevelopment projects.
“There is an urgent need in London for more homes for our ever growing population and for far too long, land owned by public bodies has lain dormant or sold off with no benefit to the capital,” said mayor Boris Johnson. “That simply must not be allowed to happen and we must build on the work done at City Hall in releasing land for development.
“The commission will be absolutely vital in co-ordinating all public bodies to ensure we squeeze every drop of developable land possible to build the homes we need for hard-working Londoners.”
Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, London Councils’ Executive member for housing, said: “Publishing the register, which London boroughs have contributed towards, is a good starting point that will allow public sector organisations in the capital to take a more strategic approach to the use of their land, especially where adjacent sites are owned by different public landowners.
“Working together and using land more creatively is vital in order to help tackle the housing crisis and deliver an increase in affordable homes for Londoners.”
The project has been welcomed by the development community. John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the House Builders Federation, said: “The public land register is a valuable first step and will be welcomed by house builders in London. The next step must be to translate these sites into real-life development opportunities which will boost housing supply in the capital, providing huge social and economic benefits to Londoners.”
LPA Perspective: This is clearly work in progress, with lots of information gaps, but the delivery of such information on a free to access, interactive map, is a massive step forward. Sifting through the site ought to give developers and planners sight of opportunities that might previously have been hidden. It’s only the first step, as there is lots more to find out.
The availability of extra information won’t necessarily translate into immediate action, or a change of attitude overnight. A recent GLA committee heard that the NHS currently looks for best bids only – not what’s best for the locality; while public shaming is not enough to push some public bodies to actually get around to marketing their sites. But it is a welcome first step.