Homes England has taken control of the delivery of more than 3,000 homes north of Burgess Hill.
The Government body, previously known as the Homes and Communities Agency, has acquired land at the strategic site known as the Northern Arc.
The area is allocated in Mid Sussex District Council’s local plan, but bringing the site forward has been made complex by land being in a number of different ownerships.
As the landowner for the whole site Homes England will be able to speed up the rate at which new homes are built and also invest in infrastructure such as new roads up front.
The announcement, which represents one of the Government agency’s biggest ever deals, was made this morning (Monday July 2) and was hailed as a ‘vote of confidence’ in both Burgess Hill and Mid Sussex.
Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England, called the move ‘enormously significant’.
He said: “This is the first major acquisition by Homes England of land where we are taking a much more aggressive stance in the land market. We are in the process of buying land in other places but this is the first big one.
“It’s important because it’s 3,000-plus homes, we will put the infrastructure in, we will break it into plots and we will then bring in developers to create housing at scale.
“Up until now we have only done this on Government-owned land, but we are now buying land or taking options.”
The benefits of Homes England taking control would be ‘speed of delivery’ and the speed of putting the new infrastructure in.
Sir Edward added: “We will do all those things, we will make sure the infrastructure goes in parallel with the housing so that local people can see that and secondly they can get a mix of different housing types here to meet the local needs.”
He described how the ratio of average wages to average house prices in Mid Sussex was ‘very high’ with a pressing need for all types of housing.
The Northern Arc development includes two new primary schools, a secondary school and a range of leisure facilities.
An outline planning application is due to be submitted to MSDC later this year.
Pru Moore, leader of Burgess Hill Town Council, described how the community had bought into the Northern Arc proposals because of the package of infrastructure that went with the new homes.
She said: “We did get buy-in from the public. They bought into the neighbourhood plan and I hope they will be rewarded by everything that has been promised in this long journey.”
Andrew Barrett-Miles, a town, district, and county councillor for Burgess Hill, added: “The whole thing is a vote of confidence in Mid Sussex and Burgess Hill. We were willing to put our heads above the parapet and take the houses but we wanted the infrastructure and decent infrastructure and it all seems to be coming together now.”
He praised the work of senior officers at the district council and thought it was a ‘huge bonus’ to have Homes England on board to deliver the infrastructure early on in the scheme’s delivery.
Andrew MacNaughton, cabinet member for housing and planning at MSDC, welcomed having one single organisation responsible for the entire scheme.
He said: “We have got one body with a vision and it will drive it forward quicker and in a more managed form where we will get the infrastructure delivered along with the development.”
The announcement was also welcomed by Sir Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex.
He said: “I have championed the involvement of Homes England in the growth planned by the Government for Burgess Hill.
“This very significant investment and long term commitment to Burgess Hill will ensure the housing comes forward in a timely manner and is accompanied by much needed infrastructure. It is a vote of confidence in Burgess Hill and Mid Sussex.”
Stephen Kinsella, executive director for land at Homes England, added: “Homes England’s reinvigorated land role is seeing us step up and intervene to unlock residential sites to help increase supply of homes where they are desperately needed.
“This acquisition at Burgess Hill shows how we can step in to ensure that complex sites in areas of acute housing need can be brought forward for early delivery through our intervention.
“It is a huge statement from Homes England, demonstrating how we can now intervene and invest to unlock the largest sites.
“We will now work quickly to achieve an early start on site and ensure the site delivers a great place to live.”
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