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Infrastructure Bill amendment may give mayor of London power to take over public sector land

Out-Law News | 16 Jul 2014 | 3:05 pm | 1 min. read

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is hoping that proposed amendments to the Infrastructure Bill will give him the power to acquire land owned by public bodies in London and sell it for development.

The Infrastructure Bill, currently under consideration in the House of Lords, proposes to give powers to the Homes and Communities Agency, England's delivery body for housing and regeneration, allowing it to take ownership of public land outside London. A proposed amendment to the bill, tabled by Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers, would give a similar power to the Greater London Authority (GLA) to take control of public sector land in the capital, allowing the land to be offered for development.

The GLA inherited 670 hectares of land from bodies including the London Development Agency in 2012, following the introduction of the Localism Act. The mayor has since moved 87% of this land into development and the proposed new powers would allow further land to be released in similar fashion.

"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," said Johnson in a statement. "Rapid redevelopment, regeneration and most importantly thousands of new homes for Londoners should be just around the corner given the necessary fast-tracking powers. Dramatic transformations ... 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 the 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," said Valentine. "Then we need to ensure he has the ability to get on with selling it using his usual trademark gusto."