Lands Improvement at a glance and our 2024 predictions



15,500 homes
We’ve secured land for a further 1,500 homes, taking our pipeline to over 15,500 new home plots.  We’ve sold land for a further 240 homes at Linmere.

£11m invested
In infrastructure and Section 106 contributions.

14,000 promoted homes
Actively promoting plans for 14,000 new homes.

Healthy Happy Places
We were joined by 60 industry experts at our placemaking event to discuss the challenges and identify ways forward.

Green shoots and a change of government

James Stone, Managing Director

2023 – well, that was an interesting year. At times it felt like I was in a washing machine…..busy going round and round but frustratingly only stuttering forward!

Planning policy remains a mess. We started the beginning of the year with a consultation prospectus on planning reform and we ended it with a bunch of soft changes to the NPPF that will make planning for new homes even more uncertain in the short term as LPAs use the opportunity to ‘go slow’ on plan making.

At the time of writing only 40% have up-to-date local plans in place. As a business that believes in a plan led system and has always sought to work with it, we are left in a quandary. It goes against the grain but in certain instances we are now forced to consider the Appeal route for expediency and certainty.

There is a glimmer of hope from the red corner who seem to have listened and get it. They are making the right noises so it will be interesting to see if they find themselves in a position to put a strong strategic policy into play.

Pessimistic though it sounds, I remain of the view that we will be nearing 2026 before we have a stable policy framework from a new government that is capable of delivering the housing the country desperately needs.

But even when we get the policy that the country needs, the public sector is woefully short of the skills and resources it needs to deliver on it. One of my resolutions at the beginning of 2023 was to take positive actions rather than bemoan the system. That’s why we have partnered with Public Practice placing built environment practitioners into the public sector to build and develop their placemaking leadership capabilities.

Inflation remained stubbornly higher for longer over 2023 than I’d hoped or predicted and interest rates are only now settling down. The consequence has been that new home sales remain low with homebuilders having slowed output and scaled back construction with fewer units released onto the market.

At the time of writing, the pricing of 5-year fixed rate mortgages has dropped well below 5% which should improve sentiment and encourage buyers back into the market. I therefore predict that we should begin to see some green shoots in the mainstream housing market in spring / summer of 2024, although history would indicate that a general election will likely stall the market for a short period.

Notwithstanding a more subdued homebuilding sector, we have experienced a robust demand for consented land. There remains demand for quality, de-risked, serviced development land where there is an investment in place.

We have a continued focus on placemaking and in September hosted an event to explore and share best practice within the industry. Over the coming year we plan to further explore some of the key issues and identify simple and readily implementable solutions to the key challenges that we identified.

In the meantime, we continue to deliver our thinking on placemaking and high-quality design at Linmere with further enabling works and parcel sales to homebuilders planned for 2024. We have also embedded this approach across all our projects at all stages of the lifecycle from acquisition through planning, delivery, sale and occupancy.

We continue to seek opportunities to grow Lands Improvement and invest in new projects, both with master development opportunities that need investment capacity and expertise to unlock and deliver them, as well as planning promotions that require strategic thinking and investment that looks beyond the immediate term planning and economic stasis to the green pastures that are on the horizon:

  • Investing in sites which are well located and both physically and socially suitable to accommodate future growth.
  • Putting sustainability, placemaking and good design at the heart of our plans.
  • Enhancing biodiversity to achieve a true net gain.
  • Ensuring physical and community infrastructure is well planned and delivered to support the early establishment of placemaking to meet the needs of both existing and new neighbourhoods.
  • Giving thought at the outset to the stewardship of public realm and community facilities.
  • Thinking about phasing and parcelisation early to attract a broad market of homebuilders, offering opportunities for true multi-tenure delivery across private sale, affordable rent, shared ownership, build-to-rent and later living that provides a diverse range of accommodation.
  • Consulting locally and engaging widely and early with all key stakeholders.

Get these fundamentals right, and as our track record proves, you can weather the inevitable changes and take the opportunities as they arise to secure planning permissions and move forward with the investment necessary to deliver the much-needed consented serviced building land for homebuilding.

James Stone, Managing Director