Committee Reports::Report - Building Land::05 May, 1985::Appendix

Appendix 4

The Supply and Price of Housing Land in County and Smaller Towns

A4.1 At the request of the Committee, the Department of the Environment wrote to a number of local authorities in county and smaller towns to obtain information on the supply and price of housing land. The authorites were asked to respond to ten questions and it was emphasised (given the desirability of an early response) that “the information could be based on personal knowledge and experience and information generally available rather than by any elaborate or systematic surveys or studies”.

A4.2 There was an excellent response to the questionnaire and the information supplied has been most useful to the Committee’s work. In all, 25 replies were received, including four from larger urban areas (over 15,000 population) and 21 from county towns. The replies came from:—




























A4.3 A summary of the questions asked and the replies to each question are:—

Housing Activity and Type

Total new houses completed and house types for the 21 county towns (the four larger centres are included with their group in the text) in 1983 were:-


Local Authority

Private Estate

Private Single







% of National Total for this category





The Geographical Spread of Completions

The authorities were asked to respond in relation to the town and its environs. Therefore, most of the activity discussed took place within a radius of five miles for the larger towns and two miles for the smaller towns.

Typically local authority and private estate completions were confined to specific areas of fully serviced land within or immediately adjacent to the town. Private single houses were more widespread though often in ribbon development following public water supply, or in areas with special scenic features.

The Adequacy of Supply of Suitable Sites for Housing

The four larger centres have been dealt with in Appendix 3. All of the 21 county towns and smaller centres reported that the supply of publicly serviced land was generally adequate to meet needs arising for a number of years, though in a few cases further work in the provision of services was necessary.

The Availability of Land on the Market or from Local Authorities for Private Housing

Fifteen of the 21 reported that there were no difficulties with the availability of serviced land; six said that land was slow in becoming available. In five of these cases this was due to original landowners being reluctant to sell (apparently mainly due to a preference to remain in farming). In the fifth case it appears that a speculative builder had bought up much of the available land at an unusually high price. One of these authorities also referred to the absence of developers to make land available for building.

In general, there was adequate supply and availability of sites for single houses. Five, however, said that topographical difficulties or the proximity of national transport routes acted as constraints on availability (and increased costs). In a few cases there were difficulties with the availability of privately supplied serviced sites for single houses.

In many cases the local authorities also provide sites for private building (both estate and single). Ten had at some time provided subsidised sites for single or co-operative housing, though five others considered the density requirements in this scheme too restrictive. Ten of the Councils had also provided non-subsidised sites to private builders or for private single houses; five had not, whilst in the remaining cases there appeared to be little demand for these services.

Size of Sites

Most of the 25 authorities (including the larger urban authorities) provided information on the size of sites for private estate and private single housing.

Nineteen authorities gave site sizes for private estate housing and it is clear that the typical site is about one-eight of an acre outside of the main urban centres. Eight of the authorities quoted this size only, whilst a further four quoted ranges which would include this size. Four gave smaller sizes only and three gave larger only.

It is more difficult to establish a typical site size for single houses. Information was provided by 24 authorities but fourteen of these quoted size ranges, the boundaries being one eighth of an acre upwards to one half. Of the ten who quoted a specific size, however, seven specified either one quarter or one third of an acre. The diagram, Figure A4.1, summarises the information provided. It suggests two conclusions:

(i)the size of private single house sites is quite variable,

(ii)it is likely that most sites are in the range one quarter to one third of an acre.

FIGURE A4.1: Site Sizes for Private Single Houses.

Note: The frequency shows how often this size was mentioned, either solely or falling within a range quoted. It does not show the number of sites at any size.

Typical Price of House Sites

There are even greater difficulties in establishing a typical price level for sites for private housing. The information provided by the authorities is summarised in Figure A4.2 and the following main points may be noted:—

Private Estate Housing

(i)Thirteen of the 25 authorities provided information. Prices per site ranged from £4,000 to £14,000 but there is some ambiguity as to whether the prices are for developed or undeveloped sites. A judgemental response to the data suggests that the price for a developed site for mid-market housing would be in the £8,000 to £10,000 range.

Private Single Houses

(ii)The price of fully serviced sites (with both water and sewerage available) and usually closer to town ranges from £5,000 to £20,000. Site prices are heavily influenced by location, road frontage, scenic and topographical characteristics. Again, there is considerable ambiguity as to whether these sites are developed (to some extent) but the main price range appears to be between £8,000 and £10,000.

(iii)The price range of unserviced and partially serviced sites for single houses is also very wide, from £3,000 to £20,000, but it appears that the bulk of sites would be in lower price ranges than for either estate or serviced single sites. Some of these would have water supply available. Most would have neither main water nor sewerage and tend to be in the outer part of the town environs. Most are probably sold at prices between £5,000 and £8,000.

(iv)Local authorities also provide sites for single houses. These sites are usually fully or partially serviced with prices varying from £3,000 to £8,000. In some cases, the sites are subsidised via the formal scheme through which the authority recoups the subsidy component from the Department of the Environment. In others, they are sold on an all-in cost basis.

General Points

(v)It must be emphasised that the information discussed above is not in a form suitable for rigorous analysis. All of the conclusions are judgemental but appear to give a reasonable description of the overall situation.

(vi)A number of authorities drew attention to special factors affecting both supply and cost of sites. Some (e.g. topographical, unwillingness of owners to sell) have been mentioned above. In relation to prices, a number pointed out that that the availability of secondhand houses on the market was a source of competition which tended to reduce site prices for new houses.

FIGURE A4.2: Prices for House Sites




LOCAL AUTHORITY (for private)



Note: The frequency shows how often this price was mentioned, on its own or part of a range. It does not show the number of sites at this price.