Prescott challenges developers accused of hoarding housing land

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Sat Dec 3 19:09:20 GMT 2005

Prescott challenges developers accused of hoarding housing land 

· Deputy PM plans to force disclosure of holdings
· Gap between earnings and prices has got 'out of hand',11026,1656003,00.

Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent
Friday December 2, 2005
The Guardian 

Property developers will be forced to reveal the scale of their land 
holdings under government plans to shame them into building more homes 
for the thousands of people priced out of the housing market. 

The pre-budget report on Monday will contain a raft of controversial 
measures to make the housing market more responsive to demand, 
including giving local authorities a share in the profits when they 
grant planning permission for privately owned land. 

Article continues
The proposals will come in the form of a response to a Treasury-
commissioned study into the housing market prepared a year ago by the 
economist Kate Barker. 

The deputy prime minister, John Prescott, yesterday admitted the scale 
of the problem when he said in some parts of the country the gap 
between average earnings and house prices was "out of hand". 

Commenting on government plans to force developers to reveal the scale 
of their land banks, he said: "A lot of ruddy builders shout about 
planning, but find it more profitable to hold on to land in tremendous 
land banks. They are on to a damn good thing. They blame planning, but 
I wish they would tell us how much land they have got in the bank." 

The government's response to the review will also contain ratings for 
sustainable homes, awarding stars for energy efficiency and 
environmental sustainability. 

The Conservatives' local government spokesman, Caroline Spelman, 
questioned Mr Prescott's green credentials and accused him of planning 
to "concrete over vast swathes of the green belt". 

But the housing minister, Yvette Cooper, claimed that Conservative 
"opposition to new homes" was "a betrayal of the next generation of 
would-be home owners. They want to cut plans for new homes. Yet the 
evidence shows, if we don't increase the number of homes we build, 
then within 20 years, less than a third of 30-year-old couples will be 
able to afford to buy a home on the basis of their earnings". 

The pre-budget report is also likely to propose more flexible planning 
guidance in what will form the government's response to the Barker 
review, which recommended an extra 17,000 homes a year to meet demand 
for social housing. 

Speaking about the scale of the affordable housing crisis at a 
briefing yesterday, Mr Prescott said: "We are beginning to see quite 
staggering house price increases in a quite short period of time. 

"You needed to put £5,000 as a deposit 20 years ago and now it is 
about £35,000. If you look right across the country with prices in the 
last couple of years, it has now got to be impossible for people to 

Mr Prescott added: "What we are now finding is that people who could 
properly buy a home before are completely eliminated from that 
process. Where are they turning to? Local authority housing lists." 

In his own local authority of Hull, the deputy prime minister said, 
"we were knocking houses down only four years ago, and now we have a 
housing list of 13,000. And how did that come about? Because it is so 
expensive to buy property".

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