Mayor calls for power to unlock London’s housing potential

15 July 2014

• Over 500 new homes for Londoners now underway at formerly stalled Catford Stadium site

• Part of 670 hectares taken on by the Mayor in 2012, 87 per cent of which is now under development

• Powers would enable the Mayor to fast track the development of thousands of homes for Londoners on a host of further public land sites


The Mayor, Boris Johnson, is calling on the government to extend its plans to accelerate the release of disused public land to London, and enable him to unlock new development to help meet London’s housing needs.


Highlighting a formidable track record in unlocking land development, the Mayor today launched construction of more than 500 new homes on the former Catford Dogs Stadium site in Lewisham which had lain empty for more than 10 years before coming into his control.


Since taking on almost 700 hectares of surplus public land in 2012, the Mayor has already moved 87 per cent of it into development.


There is capacity for thousands more homes on strategic public land across the capital, ripe for development, and these new powers would allow the Mayor to take sites forward far more quickly and create high quality and affordable homes hard working Londoners need.


The £117m redevelopment of ‘Catford Green’ is bringing more than a thousand jobs and 589 new homes to the 4.7 hectare site in the heart of Lewisham under a deal reached between the Mayor and developer Barratt London. When finished, this will include 173 low cost homes to rent and buy.


The Mayor’s work to redevelop disused public land is one strand of his comprehensive Housing Strategy to double house building and create the homes hardworking Londoners need.


This financial year the Mayor is supporting the completion of more affordable homes than in any other year since 1980. This month further allocations will be made, to 54 housing providers, as part of the Mayor’s 2015-18 £1.25bn pot.


This puts the Mayor on track to deliver the affordable housing targets in the draft London Housing Strategy and adds to the Mayor’s 100,000 low cost homes programme across his two terms.


The Mayor is driving a cross-party amendment to the government’s Infrastructure Bill to extend new powers to accelerate the release of public land to London, by giving the Greater London Authority the same powers to work with Whitehall bodies as the Homes and Communities Agency.


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work with the government and unlock the potential of the many empty and unused sites across the capital. Rapid redevelopment, regeneration and most importantly thousands of new homes for Londoners could be just around the corner given the necessary fast-tracking powers. Dramatic transformations, like the one we are witnessing in Catford today, would be possible all over the city.”


Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of business group London First, said: “Across London there are empty sites and redundant buildings owned by the public sector that could be much better used for housing. But there is no body dedicated to actually identifying where all this land is, so actually getting round to selling it happens at a glacial pace. First we need to give the Mayor the power to create a 21st Century Domesday Book for London so we know where this land is. Then we need to ensure he has the ability to get on with selling it using his trademark gusto.”


In a prime location between two key transport hubs, (Catford Bridge and Catford railway station), Catford Green will also boast 508 sq m of retail space, 298 sq m of community space as well as landscaped links through the site to Ladywell Fields and Catford Town Centre.


Neighbouring Holbeach Primary School is already lined up to use the community space once complete and is taking a keen interest in the project, which is expected to be complete by 2017, including providing student artwork to be used as part of a mosaic on the site.


Alastair Baird, Regional Managing Director for Barratt London said: "We are delighted to welcome the Mayor to Catford Green to witness the start of construction work on site. Barratt London is incredibly proud to be delivering this exciting new development for Catford which will provide much-needed homes for this part of London."


Catford Green lies in the heart of one of London’s key opportunity areas.


The extensive development is a major catalyst for further regeneration in Catford Town Centre. Lewisham Council have outlined a number of redevelopment opportunities including the redevelopment of Catford Shopping Centre and plans to work with TfL to improve the transport network in the town centre.


Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “It is very good news for Catford that this site is finally to be developed. The additional homes and jobs will be very welcome in this part of Lewisham, and the development will sit well alongside our own plans for the rebuilding and improvement of Catford Town Centre.” 

Notes to editors


Infrastructure Bill

• The Mayor is delighted that the Government has brought forward the Infrastructure Bill, and is determined to work to improve it as it goes through Parliament

. • The bill set out plans to make it easier for public land across the country to be transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency to boost housing supply in England. This excludes London because the HCA powers in the capital were devolved to the Greater London Authority under the Localism Act in 2011.

• The Mayor is therefore calling for an amendment to Clause 21 of the Bill that will ensure the GLA can act as the Government’s land disposal agency within London on the same basis as the HCA elsewhere in the country. This would remedy a currently anomalous position.

• At present, land from Arm’s Length Bodies cannot be transferred directly to the bodies who have the necessary expertise to dispose of them, the GLA in London and the HCA across the rest of the country. Instead it has to be done via government departments, creating lengthy delays, complexity and inefficiency when there is an increasing pressure to release land for new homes. • The government has recognised this by introducing legislation in the Infrastructure Bill for transfers direct to the HCA but, given the HCA’s powers in London were devolved to the GLA, this excludes the GLA and therefore London.

• The Mayor is working with parliamentarians to seek an amendment to the bill, with cross-party support, which has been tabled by Lord Tope.

• Land where the GLA so far has a land interest will deliver around 40,000 homes, and has already provided London with an economic boost of £3.8bn.

• The Mayor committed to an exit strategy on the 670 hectares of surplus public land he inherited in 2012, and already 87 per cent is either developed or has been moved into development. The Mayor now wants to speed up the development of central government owned disposable land. Catford Green

• The former Catford Greyhound Stadium site was transferred to the GLA from the HCA as part of the devolution of power to the Mayor under the Localism Act 2011. The land was acquired by English Partnerships, a predecessor body of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), in March 2004 from Network Rail and the National Greyhound Association.

• The development will include 173 low cost homes to rent and buy: 113 properties for affordable rent, and 60 for shared ownership.

• In the London Growth deal, announced on 7 July, the Government committed to considering the transfer of surplus strategic land holdings to London government. This site shows how fast and effectively the Mayor would be able to release that land.

• Other public sites which are being developed under the Mayor include: Trenchard House in Soho, Cane Hill in Croydon, St Clements and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Tower Hamlets, Lymington Fields in Dagenham, and Greenwich Square in Greenwich. Housing Strategy

• Later this week the Mayor will announce the providers (a range of housing associations, London boroughs and newly Registered Providers) awarded new allocations under the £1.25bn funding for 45,000 more low cost homes for Londoners between 2015-18.