Sitematch: "A month of meetings in one morning"
by James Renoux-Wood Fri 22nd November 2013, 5:22 pm
Developers, regeneration specialists and local authority representatives came to HM Treasury in Whitehall on 22 November, to hear about opportunities for development on public sector owned surplus land.
They met with government land disposal teams from the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, plus other departments and agencies, to discuss opportunity sites and find resolutions for problem sites around the country.
To introduce the morning session, delegates heard a pre-recorded address by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, as well as speeches by Mark Clare, group chief executive at Barratt Developments; Terrie Alafat, director of housing growth and affordable housing at Department for Communities and Local Government; and Brendon Walsh, director of regeneration, economic development and environment at the London Borough of Hounslow.
Clare addressed issues surrounding housing in the UK, and how best to facilitate the government’s aim to build 100,000 affordable homes by 2015. He emphasised the importance of selling off brownfield sites.
“In the debate about how we get more housing in the UK, there isn’t always consensus, but there is agreement to one thing – we have a housing crisis in the UK,” he said.
“What I would say is that there has been real progress in the last couple of years and we need to ensure this continues by getting as much new land through planning as we possibly can.
“It can be a complicated process bringing these sites forward and together we have to find a better and much faster way. That’s why I’m pleased to see the emphasis today is on speed.”
Alafat addressed the barriers to housebuilding and how best to overcome them.
She said: “From the supply side, availability and affordability of land are the main barriers.
“Forty per cent of land is owned by the public sector, including local authorities, so it’s imperative that we get this land into the system to build the right kind of houses we need, in the right places.
“Today is about trying to create that dialogue, trying to build partnerships and that is essential to speed up the process of getting homes built.
Walsh spoke of how he and 3Fox International managing director, Toby Fox, came up with the Sitematch concept on the back of close collaboration at MIPIM 2011.
Around 100 delegates attended the event and some spoke to Sitematch UK about how helpful they found the day.
David Toplas, chief executive at property specialist Mill Group, said: “The day has been a really interesting way of establishing initial contact with landowners.”
It was an opinion shared by Stuart Spence, commercial advisor at Hyde Housing Group. He said: “I came here with reasonable expectations, expecting it to be a normal networking event but it’s above and beyond that.
“There’s a very high quality level of people here who are more than happy to discuss opportunities.
“I’ve had a month of meetings in one morning!”
GVA, Capita and Peter Brett Associates, who acted as advisors on the day, sponsored Sitematch UK.
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