November 16, 2011
No need to hoard land
With the slump in land values, house builders and property speculators must be looking at their balance sheets and wondering whether all the land they acquired with such optimism for future development has become a dead weight liability. The English based Land Trust is planning to make an offer that it believes will both ease the long term financial pressure on the developers and serve the interests of local communities at the same time. Why doesn’t Scotland have an organisation that can offer this win-win solution?
As the government legislates for social cohesion at a local level, the Land Trust is urging house builders and property developers to make their surplus land available to local communities by creating open public spaces that can be enjoyed by all, whilst increasing profitability for the landowner. The Land Trust has appointed six property consultancies to a newly created framework with the specific remit of targeting land-owning organisations across the private and public sector. With over 1,000 hectares across the UK, the Charitable Trust offers cost effective management solutions for open and green spaces and aims to increase its holdings ten-fold by 2020.
Euan Hall, Chief Executive of the Land Trust, said: “We’re talking about a win-win situation for house builders and property developers that profits communities socially, profits landowners financially and delivers Big Society in spades.
“In these times of economic austerity, countless organisations are desperately clinging onto swathes of non-operational land that is at best a distraction and at worst a financial liability.
“At the same time, communities across the country are crying out for more public green spaces that can act as an outdoor escape, improving the neighbourhood’s well-being and boosting the local economy.
“This paradox doesn’t have to exist. Well managed multi-functional open spaces have the ability to transform lives whilst reducing costs and liabilities for the owner. The creation of new open space on the site of a former colliery at Phoenix Park, near Barnsley has directly increased local property values by around £50m. Part of the site at Bentley Community Woodland in South Yorkshire had a negative value when we took it on, but just three years later it was sold on for a six figure sum.
” The new development partners’ framework is made up of six leading property players: BNP Paribas Real Estate partnering with WSP; Bruton Knowles; Capita Symonds; Gerald Eve; The Environment Partnership; and URSUS. Their remit is to target the key industry sectors, including construction and property development, identified by the Land Trust as being most at risk from not divesting non-core land.
House builders and other property developers have large landbooks, and can end up owning several different types of non-operational land, from public amenity use, through to dormant land pending development and areas with tight restrictions on potential end use. The Land Trust’s research shows that poor quality open space breeds dereliction and abandonment bringing negative economic effects, putting off investment, reducing trade and footfall, and attracting anti-social behaviour. With grounds ranging from the former Liverpool International Garden Festival site to the Greenwich Ecology Park in London, the Land Trust has extensive experience of converting derelict land into large scale country parks or smaller urban parks.
Hall added: “House builders have operational management responsibility for some public realm or open space amenity however restrictions on end-use may be linked to planning obligations which can result in a financial challenge.
“But leaving this land to become derelict isn’t an option. From a developers point of view the damage to asset value and reputation of poorly managed open space can be considerable – such reputational damage could count against them when future planning applications are considered
“The strategic partnerships with these six property consultancies gives us additional firepower to promote our range of sustainable management and ownership solutions to a much broader audience. Our track record at designing and maintaining spaces whilst future-proofing the landowner’s reputation and investment speaks for itself.
“With markets spiralling and the Localism Bill going through parliament, there’s never been a more pertinent time to reassess your landholding.”