Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has brought forwards 10 small publicly-owned sites as a pilot programme for providing development opportunities for the capital’s small- and medium-enterprise building sector.
The sites, owned by Transport for London, are expected to boost the capital’s affordable homes provision, contributing to the Mayor’s ultimate 50% affordable housing target.
The Small Sites, Small Builders scheme is looking to provide 111 homes from the ten sites, with two exclusively available for community-led housing group bids. In total 68% are expected to be affordable.
This contribution will add to the 1,500 homes expected to be provided at Limmo Peninsula, the large-scale Transport For London-owned site in East London.
The Mayor’s office recognises the importance of breaking away from the dominance of the major developers, and its focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises is welcomed by Custom Build Strategy. It reported that the number of small builders (delivering less than 100 homes) has halved in the last 10 years.
The processes and experiences of the Small Sites programme will inform the Mayor’s office as it looks into growing the scheme, and the office is already in discussion with other public sector landowners about using their own land for small sites.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “For far too long, London’s housing market has been over-reliant on large developers building the majority of our homes on large brownfield sites. The number of small sites coming forward has halved in the last decade, and we have lost almost a third of all small and medium-sized homebuilders operating in the capital.
“Through my new small sites programme, I want to make more public land available to help contribute not only to tackling the housing crisis in London, but also to reinvigorating our small and medium-sized homebuilding sector. I also want to provide more opportunities for Community Land Trusts, which is why I have earmarked two sites specifically for community-led housing.
“I am leading the way by bringing forward TfL sites to pilot my new approach, and I want to offer a real opportunity for small builders and community-led housing groups to play their part in building the new and genuinely affordable homes Londoners so desperately need.”
Regrettably, the Small Sites, Small Builders landing page on the website doesn’t reference self-build or custom build, referring only to sites available to ‘small developers, housing associations and communities’. This is a missed opportunity, as these sites represent a unique chance for London councils to meet some of their duties under the Right To Build legislation.
However, when asked about this the Mayor’s office clarified that it did encourage applications from custom builders.
“We are keen to encourage self-builders and custom-builders to submit proposals and bids for the TfL-owned sites currently available” said a spokesperson.
“A number of the very smallest sites are highlighted as being of particular interest for self-builders, who we believe ought to be in a position to make competitive bids.
On a national small-sites context, Government is also consulting on measures that could require local authorities to allocate 20% of their housing supply as small sites as part of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This would bring one-fifth of council’s housing pipeline into a series of small sites of under half an hectare.
The new NPPF is eagerly awaited, and Government has indicated that it hopes to consult on the revised NPPF by the end of March.
While it would have been great had the Mayor’s office named the custom and self-build sector in its documentation, the reality is that this scheme is a move in the right direction. Its website offers a clear-to- use guide to the plots, and it would be fantastic if Government adopted this model of listing small public sector sites nationally, which could be a valuable route to land for the custom build sector.