MD1540 Receipt of funding for The London Land Commission

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
10 September 2015
Decision by: 
Boris Johnson MP (past staff), Mayor of London

Executive summary

The Mayor and the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in February 2015 their intention to establish a London Land Commission. This decision approves receipt and expenditure of a £1m grant from HM Treasury to support the Commission’s work. 


The Mayor approves receipt and expenditure of a grant of £1m revenue funding from HM Treasury to support the establishment and operation of the London Land Commission, including the procurement and appointment of property consultants and an ICT developer.  

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1    The potential for building homes on public land in London is huge. However, the lack of useful data and coherent co-ordination has resulted in a fragmented approach to land release, which has arguably led to a lack of ambition and slowed the rate of delivery. 

1.2    To address this, on 20 February 2015 the Chancellor and Mayor announced the Long Term Economic Plan for London which included the proposal to establish a London Land Commission to identify land in public ownership, which will help London to develop the equivalent of 100% of London’s brownfield land and contribute towards building over 400,000 new homes by 2025.
1.3    The new Commission will work in partnership with Central and Local Government to unify the disparate threads into one single whole: improving the way public bodies manage information, allowing better co-ordination of the release of disused public land, and ultimately boosting the supply of new homes in the Capital.
1.4    The Commission is based in the GLA,  is governed by the Mayor and Housing Minister and will meet on a quarterly basis. The Deputy Mayor for Housing and Land will co-chair the meeting in lieu of the Mayor when necessary. London Councils and Government Departments are represented on the Commission. The ongoing membership of the Commission will be reviewed and agreed between the Mayor and Housing Minister on a priority basis. An initial meeting was held on 13 July where the Mayor and Minister agreed the Commission’s Terms of Reference, including provisions as to its composition.  The agreed Terms of Reference are attached at Appendix A.  

1.5    The GLA is responsible for the operation of the Commission, whose work includes establishing thematic priorities, engaging with London Boroughs and Government Departments and developing a comprehensive database to collate and publish data concerning public sector land. The Housing and Land team is responsible for the programme management and delivery of the Commission’s activities, with input from GLA Planning and Transport for London.

1.6    HM Treasury has issued a Grant Determination, under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003, to provide the GLA with a grant of £1m revenue funding, which will be used by the GLA to establish the Commission, and support its work and operation.  There are no conditions to the grant. It has been identified that the HMT grant will be expended on data collection, professional advice to assess land availability and housing capacity; development of a public land ownership register; and resourcing the Commission. Expenditure of the money will be subject to the GLA’s usual corporate governance and approval procedures.

1.7    To support early delivery of the Commission’s objectives the GLA procured the services of Savills via a call off from an approved framework in accordance with the requirements of the GLA’s Contracts and Funding Code.  Under its appointment, Savills will complete the data collection for the register, engage with London’s Boroughs and complete assessments on land availability and housing capacity, and the levers required to unlock existing and future opportunities. Initial work has commenced with Savills as a pilot study to inform the scope of the GLA’s activities and provide professional advice to the Commission in its first year of operation. 

1.8    The GLA will set up a project group to monitor implementation and delivery of the work programme agreed by the Commission. The group will be comprised of HMT, DCLG, London Councils, DoH and other key landowning departments as required to inform the programme delivery. 

Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1       Set out below are the objectives of the London Land Commission in order of priority.


Priority interventions

Priority A: Developing a robust brownfield register for publically owned land

  • Collect existing data and assess where residential schemes will unlock growth
  • Create an asset database, controlled and managed by GLA on behalf of LLC
  • Agree standard of categorization of assets across local and central public bodies

Priority B: Establishing a priority strategy for public land release (around transport nodes and within Housing Zones & Opportunity Areas)

  • Focus on priority areas where interventions will add most value and agree strategy and programme for brownfield land release
  • Define growth areas for future housing supply, including where rationalisation and configuration of land will maximise residential potential 
  • Develop planning and development principles, including soft market testing with private sector, transferring/sharing commercial risk
  • Agree with Public bodies disposal programme for identified surplus sites for 2015-2016 (reviewed annually thereon)
  • Identify role of other bodies critical to the success of land coming forward to market
  • Develop and align strategies with London Health Board on its recommendations for NHS estates

Priority C: Explore opportunities for collaboration and changes to improve procurement activities to accelerate new housing supply

  • Review asset strategies, analysing and defining commercial drivers for landowners
  • Understand existing practices for disposals and identify any barriers or knowledge gaps
  • Agree commercial strategy for sites which have potential to be surplus, including planning strategy
  • Develop models for land release, including joint ventures, where land is in multiple ownership
  • Identify changes required to existing policies to support better and more efficient public bodies and strategic bodies, including truncating existing processes, reviewing definition of best consideration (including basis of value) and making recommendation for changes, including improving legislation if necessary to further objectives. 

Priority D: Develop a capital investment programme to incentivise land release and unlock housing through investment in site assembly and infrastructure

  • Business case for comprehensive spending round
  • GLA and Government agree match funding to enable and incentivise landowners
  • Agree financial and political levers required
Equality comments

a.    The London Land Commission initiative implements policies contained in the Mayor’s London Housing Strategy. In January 2014 the GLA published an integrated impact assessment (“IIA”), including an equalities impact assessment, of that strategy. 

b.    The policies related to increasing housing supply were covered by the Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) for the Further Alterations to the London Plan. The IIA concluded that updating housing projections and targets would support the delivery of sufficient housing and may help stabilise housing prices, supporting equal opportunities throughout communities.

In undertaking its role, the London Land Commission and the GLA will need to have regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (see paragraph 6.5 below).

Other considerations

a.    Political buy-in from public sector land owners will be needed to maximise the effectiveness of the LLC. There is a considerable degree of buy-in already, through the Government’s Surplus Public Sector Land programme, with which GLA has been involved, and which a significant number of Government departments have signed up to. The GLA is working with London Councils to co-ordinate activities with London Boroughs to ensure they are actively involved and committed to working collaboratively. 

b.    The future capital funding arrangements for the Commission’s operation are yet to be determined, and will need to be discussed and agreed with Government, including commitment towards a programme of land assembly and targeted investment in infrastructure and housing.  

Financial comments

5.1    The GLA is to receive £1,000,000 of non-ringfenced revenue grant to establish the London Land Commission within the 2015-16 financial year.

5.2    Expenditure of this grant is to develop a database (£100,000); consultancy support (£200,000); Due diligence (£100,000); staff costs (£200,000) and an enabling works programme (£400,000).

Investment and Performance Board

7.1 The Board received the report which provided an update on the establishment of the London Land Commission. The Assistant Director for Strategic Projects and Property noted that an inaugural meeting between the Mayor and Minister for Housing had taken place on 13 July 2015. The aim of the Commission is to work collaboratively across the public sector to rationalise the estate and identify opportunities for new areas of housing. The Commission is also looking at incentives to help free up land assets held by the public sector.

7.2 The Board Members agreed that:

a)    The receipt and expenditure of £1m for the London Land Commission’s work be approved in principle; 

b)    The operation of the Commission be noted, namely that:

i)    The Commission will be co-chaired by the Mayor and the Housing Minister;
ii)    The delivery of the activities of the Commission will be discharged by the GLA; and
iii)    The revenue funding granted by the Treasury will be administered by the GLA for the establishment and operation of the Commission.

Planned delivery approach and next steps



Mayoral Decision for  receipt of funding


Data collection

Summer-Autumn 2015

Procurement of ICT developer

Summer 2015

London Land Commission meeting

October 2015

Identification of early opportunities

Autumn 2015

*Publish initial data (register)

Winter 2015

*indicative timetable subject to procurement


Appendices and supporting papers

Appendix A Terms of Reference 

This paper sets out the high-level principles that will govern the London Land Commission. 

•    Develop a robust brownfield register for publically owned land, bringing together existing data and sourcing new data from public bodies in London.
•    Establish a strategy for prioritising public land release (around transport nodes and within Housing Zones and Opportunity Areas)
•    Explore opportunities for collaboration and changes to improve procurement activities to accelerate new housing supply 
•    Develop a capital investment programme to incentivise land release and target investment to unlock housing around infrastructure 
Governance and structure 
•    This will be a new Commission, led by the GLA.
•    The Commission will be Co-chaired by the Mayor and the Housing Minister and which will meet on a quarterly basis. 
•    It will be a policy advisory group providing oversight on the implementation of the London Land Commission 
•    The membership, including any independent representatives, will be agreed between the Mayor and Government. 
•    The Mayor will delegate the role of Co-Chair to the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Land, when he is unable to act as Chair. 
•    Establishment of a steering group, chaired by GLA, with representation from public landowners. 
Role of the Steering group

To enable the London Land Commission’s objectives through:
•    Identifying land and property in public ownership, requiring co-operation by Government Property Unit, Departments (and their delivery bodies) and London Boroughs to share data with GLA on a quarterly basis. 
•    Analysing data to identify priority areas for development and sites which could be advanced to come forward for development
•    Agreeing standardised approach to categorization of land and property across central and local public bodies
•    Requiring surplus land or land which will or has the potential to become surplus for development to come forward
•    Delivering brokering of deals between different parts of the public sector on land sales, including by identifying opportunities for coordination and disposal with privately owned land.
•    Assessing barriers and constraints, uses and housing capacity and interventions necessary to increase land release
•    Requiring spatial mapping to highlight where a strategic approach to land, including public sector acquisitions, could unlock asset value and accelerate delivery in growth areas. 
•    Comprehensive approach to directing investment, through infrastructure, housing and complementing policies for improving London’s health economy. 
•    Ensuring advice and capacity (primarily technical) is provided to drive the procurement and delivery of homes and spur economic growth across London 
Key roles 
In setting up the Commission, Government agrees to: 
•    Provide existing data on central government land and their delivery bodies 
•    Provide existing NHS Trust / NHS Property Services data 
•    Participation of key departments, and exercising their influence over delivery bodies to further the Commission’s objectives. 
In setting up the Commission, the GLA will lead on: 
•    Providing Secretariat functions for the Commission
•    Providing existing data on GLA / TfL /MOPAC/LFEPA/LLDC land
•    Participation of boroughs to share data and identify opportunities for housing potential

The Commission would require ongoing resource & capital funding the details of which are to be agreed between DCLG, HMT and the GLA

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