The Homes and Communities Agency has announced that more than 100 new homes are to be built on former railway land in Aintree, Liverpool, after completion of the first public land pilot disposal.

The HCA has recently taken on 35 sites from other government bodies as part of an effort to provide 100,000 new homes by next year.

The first deal has been secured with Persimmon Homes Lancashire as the developer for the 17 acre site. It has been agreed with Sefton Council and will include 10 acres of public open space for the residents of Aintree. Persimmon Homes is due to apply for planning permission in September with construction in the spring and the first homes completed by autumn next year.

Since April 2013, the HCA has acquired and transferred in 35 sites from central government bodies and NHS Trust sites, the majority of which will be brought to market over the coming year.

While this is a pilot for the HCA, more generally a lot of state land has already been sold. In February the DCLG Minister Kris Hopkins reported:

“The Public Sector Land programme, which identifies land suitable for housing in this spending review and has so far sold 439 sites in England and Departments are forecasting to sell a further 355 sites by March 2015.”

I would favour far greater sales – both to clear the National Debt and to free the housing supply. But it is encouraging that some progress is being made. The Aintree example reminds us that there can also be great environmental benefits. This could certainly apply in terms of developing state owned waste land in the so-called “Green Belt”.