RESOURCE | A North West Update from the HCA

Following recent close working with the regions HCA team, Barton Willmore was delighted to welcome Deborah McLaughlin, HCA’s Executive Director of the North West, to a recent gathering of Housebuilders from across the region, hosted at Manchester’s own Restaurant Bar & Grill. Here, Dan Mitchell, the Partner leading Barton Willmore’s Manchester team, provides an overview of the discussions had.

The HCA plays a key role in our region and nationally, as the national housing and regeneration agency, tasked with increasing the supply of housing (public and private), accelerating the disposal of public land and utilising their investment tools and assets to support growth. Acting as a bridge between national policy and local ambition, they work with partners to support delivery on the ground and are the third biggest surplus land owner in Whitehall.

Within our region in particular the HCA’s ‘Manchester Place’ partnership with Manchester City Council aims to deliver 55,000 homes by 2027. HCA landholdings in the North West total 7,000ha plus and disposing of their landholdings and de-risking sites to facilitate development is both core business and a priority.

“The Government has made its intentions clear and is putting pressure on all departments to get land moving and increase the number of homes being built and as part of this, the HCA has been confirmed as the Government’s land disposal body,’ said Deborah McLaughlin. ‘It can be a challenge to find land declared surplus and a sufficient mix of land, but we feel there is the beginning of a significant shift for Local Authorities wanting development, and closer working between the HCA and these authorities as a result.”

In addition to the HCA sites already coming forward, pilots are underway in Lancaster with the Department of Health land, and they are also working with DEFRA, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Transport. The HCA’s annual Land Development and Disposal Plan will bring forward 16,000 homes by 2015 and is helping to make a significant contribution to the Prime Minister’s 100,000 homes target for land released from central Government.

The HCA work in conjunction with local partners such as developers and the Local Authority to bring land forward in line with local ambitions and closely aligned with the ambitions of Core Cities and LEPs. “We are currently bringing forward a host of sites via the Delivery Partner Panel (DPP) and agent-led routes, frequently discussing the forward pipeline with developers on a one to one basis. We are bringing land to the table and also supporting delivery by providing commercial development advice, pioneering the ‘Build Now, Pay Later’ approach (deferred payments), offering capacity support on large sites (ATLAS), de-risking sites and devising funding packages.”

Deborah went on to talk about their significant land holdings in and around Preston, where activity has historically been constrained by infrastructure limitations. To remedy this, the HCA, Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council and South Ribble Borough Council have embarked on a £434m City Deal, which is expanding and improving local transport infrastructure at an unprecedented rate, enabling a forecast 20,000 new jobs and 17,420 new homes to be created and providing a huge boost to the local economy.

In conclusion, Deborah said ‘public land remains high on the political agenda and is likely to continue to be’, with a certain specific mention in December’s Autumn Statement. She added that the HCA is well positioned to support delivery with large scale opportunities aligned to LEPs, Core Cities and Growth Deals. ‘Local engagement is key. Housebuilders need to ensure they are talking to Local Authority partners. We need their help with how can things move more quickly, is there will and capacity in the market to create more homes, and have Local Authorities got the capacity to build more?’

There is clearly a great opportunity for the public and private sector to work together to enable the delivery of new homes in the region. Clearly many of our region’s largest housebuilders are already involved via the Delivery Partner Panel but there are plenty more opportunities and it was clear that Deborah and the North West arm of the HCA is very keen to hear your thoughts. As a planner I am certainly looking forward to seeing what emerges over the coming months.

This article was originally published through Place Resources

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