Housebuilder warns of brownfield shortage

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A leading housebuilder yesterday warned that Britain is heading for a crisis in the supply of housing unless Government policy is changed urgently.

Wilson Bowden said that there is no more than two years' worth of supply of "brownfield" or recycled land available to developers. Ian Robertson, the company's chief executive, said: "This is a very difficult situation that will develop into a crisis if not tackled quickly."

Wilson Bowden said that a recent report on the amount of brownfield land available, commissioned by the Government from English Partnerships, seriously over-estimated the volumes of such land available for development.

Last month English Partnerships said: "Nearly one-third of the brownfield or previously developed land identified is contained within the key 'growth area' regions of Greater London, the South-east and east of England."

That implied that two-thirds of the 65,500 hectares of brownfield land in the country was available to build new homes. However, Wilson Bowden said the actual figure was just 11 per cent. "What we're staring at is a situation where there ain't very much left to go at," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Robertson said the industry needed fiscal incentives, a quicker and easier planning system and government aid in putting in place infrastructure, such as transportation, to make more sites viable.

The Government has set a target that 60 per cent of all new homes should be built on brownfield sites. Some 195,000 new homes are needed every year, while only a net 145,000 new homes are built.

Mr Robertson said that this could lead to a situation where "we'll all be living with mummy" or be homeless.

He added that Government policy, especially the Planning Act now passing through Parliament, contained measures which made the situation "worse not better".

By contrast, the English Partnerships report concluded that: "The target of achieving 60 per cent, or more, of new homes on brownfield land should continue to be achievable in the foreseeable future."