December 21, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
LONDON, 21 DECEMBER 2006: The influential Barker Report out on 5 December 2006, further substantiated the need to build millions of more homes in the UK, by stating that, if required, the green belt will be used for this purpose, to ease the pressures on the UK’s land supply. However, UK Land Investments, one of the largest strategic land investment companies in the UK, fears that some land banking companies may use this report to deliberately mislead consumers.

UK Land Investments’ concerns in this regard falls in line with issues expressed by the UK’s most vocal and prominent countryside charity, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). In the CPRE’s latest report out on 14 December 2006, it was vociferously critical of malpractice within the land banking industry, describing some industry operator-practices as being “shabby” and “a fast growing mess”. The CPRE believes that a “beautiful, tranquil, diverse and productive countryside is fundamental to people's quality of life, wherever they live and that landscape should be valued for its own sake”. UK Land Investments’ fears echo those of the CPRE that some of these fundamental factors will be flouted by disreputable land banking companies, eager to make a ‘quick buck’ at the expense of consumers as well as the countryside.

The CPRE Report recognised UK Land Investment’s own mission to quash malpractice within the industry and its continued undertaking to quash improper activity to potential investors. The CPRE isolated the company by saying that “UK Land Investments Group has promoted itself extensively to the media as the respectable face of landbanking, and has called for higher standards in the industry. Whilst CPRE has questions – as outlined in this briefing – about standards across the industry as a whole, we have no reason or knowledge which makes us believe this particular firm does not operate to high standards.”

The so-far unregulated land banking industry has been under heavy scrutiny by the media over the way some companies mislead investors. There have been instances where the DTI has shut down companies who have used unreasonable business practices and some firms have even gone bust, due to inefficient management, leaving their investors in the lurch.

UK Land Investments is continually striving to clean up the industry and is dedicated to ensure that the industry is regulated in some effective way as soon as possible.

Whilst the Barker Report has identified that feasibility studies need to be made into using green belt land for sustainable housing, UK Land Investments believes that a great deal of research needs to be done first, which includes detailed environmental, ecological, geo-technical, highway assessments and safety audits before land sites are deemed suitable and offer a sustainable solution. The investment in such research which a strategic land investment company needs to make can run into tens of thousands of pounds – which can conclude in the site being found to be unsuitable. UK Land Investments believes this is an assessment which is essential.

Nigel Walter, Group Managing Director of UK Land Investments says: “We wholeheartedly welcome the findings made by the CPRE and are completely unified with their mission to drive out unscrupulous operators from this industry. We are delighted to engage in dialogue with such organisations to ensure that consumers as well as the countryside is protected from dishonest operators, who deliberately exaggerate or mislead individuals on the potential prospects and financial returns of land.
As a business, the vast majority of the land projects we acquire are not in the green belt. We wholeheartedly agree that if there is alternative, suitable land available, this should be prioritised. Of course, we appreciate that there are exceptional circumstances where there is an urgent housing requirement to solve local affordability issues for key workers such as nurses, teachers, emergency services and local and central government employees.”

“We also fully support the objectives of the Barker Report to be economically driven, with the balance of ensuring any development is carried out in a suitable and sustainable location. This country cannot afford to continue to under-supply new housing for the growing population – affordability issues have already reached a critical point and it is a fundamental economic requirement to ensure that everyone in this country can afford a home to live in and thrive.”

“If the only land available which meets the stringent planning requirements is in the green belt, then there is a case to support the releasing of this land as laid out by the Barker Report.

Government figures show that even with an increase in housing supply to around 200,000 additional homes per year by 2016, less than half a per cent of the total green field area in the South East and East of England would be needed to accommodate these new homes.”

“Another clear distinction of UK Land Investments is our commitment to the development of local communities as part of any planned development, which includes resources such as educational and sports facilities, parks and wildlife preservation areas, to name but a few.”

For further press information contact:
Marc Prema-Ratner or Paul Bowhay at Z’est Corporate Public Relations on 020-7734 0404
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