MoD Plans To Sell Of Parts Of Its Estate To Boost Budgets And Create 17,000 More Homes By 2020

Planning Experts Welcome Plan To Clear Land For New Homes But Warn Much More Is Needed

08.09.2016

Karen Roberts, Press Officer | 0207 400 8714

Planning experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell have welcomed the announcement that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have put 13 major properties on the market to try and raise £225million.

The extensive list of properties, being sold to boost defence budgets, includes two golf courses, three airfields and four Army barracks.

Some of the land is being cleared for the purpose of building of new homes and the MoD is targeting £1billion in revenues from property sales under plans set out in the 2015 spending review.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Our commitment to protect and increase the budget for our armed forces means that every penny of that will be reinvested into defence, helping to keep Britain safe.”

Expert Opinion
This announcement is to be welcomed. The size of the Defence Estate has been untenable for decades and one of the benefits of the release of central government land for development, is that planning permission is pretty much guaranteed, so these homes should happen.

However, the announcement needs to be treated with a little caution, and also be seen in context, because it is unlikely in the extreme that these 17,000 homes will actually be delivered before 2020 as suggested.

Each of the sites will need to be marketed; and planning permission obtained. There will also then need to be approval of reserved matters and the discharge of the likely myriad of planning conditions associated with large developments. Lastly, each site is likely only to be built out at a rate that the local housing market can absorb. That is likely to lead to a completion date substantially after 2020.

That is significant because the government has declared a target of 1,000,000 new homes in the life of this Parliament. This is the context in which the proposal must be seen. That target equated to 200,000 new homes a year; or 50,000 per quarter, or 16,667 per month.

In the last five quarters (including the one starting just before the May 2015 election, only 176,249 homes have been completed, at an average rate of 35,248 per quarter.

To hit the government's 1,000,000 target by 2020, completions will now have to average 54,917 for each if the next 15 quarters – already more than 50% above the present rate of completions. This number will only get worse with each quarter that passes without the required rate being met.

Neither this news nor the equally welcome announcement that Network Rail plan to release redundant land for an additional 12,000 homes is going to change the simple inescapable arithmetic: the government will not see the amount of housing it is targeting.

Which of course is no reason for them not to keep trying.
Carl Dyer, Partner