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Deputy mayor outlines site disposal timetable

Wed 3rd October 2012, 3:02 pm

The Greater London Authority is aiming to have plans for all of its surplus land by 2016, according to deputy mayor and director of housing Richard Blakeway.

With 625ha in London, the Greater London Authority (GLA) is the city's biggest landowner outside the Royal Parks. It is compiling a list of its assets and those held by Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the Fire Authority.

"By spring 2016 we aim to have outcomes in place for all our land," said Blakeway at the Public Sector Property and Land conference last month. "For the most part we hope we will have disposed of that land and it will be under development or with a development partner."

In time it intends to extend the list to public sector sites beyond the mayoral family of organisations.

The NHS Estate in London is worth about £6.6 billion, it was estimated at the conference, across 2,000-plus sites, owned by 71 organisations. Last year five per cent of the estate was disposed of.

Blakeway said that GLA assets will be held by a single London property unit, which will ensure delivery of mayoral commitments, including free schools, the environmental upgrade of buildings and the creation of community land trusts, and assemble sites to unlock development opportunities. A development panel will be set up in association with London Councils by next year.

Ten public-owned sites will be selected for the panel to speed up and cheapen development procurement. Tools such as deferring receipts will be employed to make developments viable.

Speaking about the Newington Butts site put out to market by the GLA last month, Blakeway added: "If there are institutions out there really serious about wanting to do private rented sector housing, that is a site they should look at."

At the same event, Judith Armitt – director of London strategy at the Government Property Unit – said that London was home to about 10% of all government property, totalling “86 holdings and about 1 million sq metres, and costing about £700 million a year to maintain".

Having already disposed of 50 assets and reduced its land by 16 per cent (and running costs by £116 million), the government has targeted a further 30 per cent reduction in cost and halving of space by 2020.

Pointing to the conversion of Admiralty Arch into a boutique hotel offering rooms at £3,000 a night as an example, Armit said: "Change in use from office to residential might be helpful in some places."

"We are looking at rationalising property, operations and working practices within government, including service sharing," said GPU head of regional strategy Sherin Aminossehe. "We will use capital receipts to drive jobs, economic growth and regeneration."

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