Background to the report

In 2016-17 the government estimated the total value of central government‑owned land and property at £179 billion. The government has a policy to sell assets where it considers they no longer serve a public purpose, or that purpose can be more efficiently realised through its transfer to private or non-government hands. There are benefits from sales of surplus public land: proceeds can be reinvested in public services; and land sold may be developed for other purposes, particularly for the building of new homes. But there are also risks, for example government departments might sell land without first establishing a clear view of whether it might be needed to deliver future public services.

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For land, the government has two main disposal targets:

  • Proceeds target: The government plans to deliver £5 billion of receipts between 2015 and 2020 through the release of surplus public sector land and property across the UK.
  • Land for new homes target: Under its Public Land for Housing Programme, the government aims to increase housing supply by releasing surplus public sector land for at least 160,000 homes in England between 2015 and 2020.

Content and scope of the report

This investigation looks at the government’s strategy for land disposals and the performance against both targets. We do not evaluate the effectiveness or value for money of the government’s land disposal strategy or the programmes. Our investigation does not include local authority land disposals, which do not contribute to either target. Our investigation focuses on:

  • the rationale, objectives and strategy for selling public land (Part One);
  • progress on the land disposals for new homes programme (Part Two); and
  • progress on the £5 billion proceeds programme, and the use of proceeds (Part Three).


Publication details

Press release

View press release (2 May 2019)

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