Savills completed almost £500m worth of land sales across the East of England in 2021 – paving the way for over 8,600 new homes. 

The 50 sites – totalling £498,601,900 – are spread across Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Hertfordshire and have planning permission for 8,632 residential units. The total value of transactions was a 137 per cent increase on 2020 and a 67 per cent increase on 2019.

Agents said that demand for land for residential development in the East of England remains high – with significant competition for sites and a high number of bids leading to an increase in prices. 

Significant deals in the region included the sale of a 166-acre site at Great Haddon in Cambridgeshire with permission for 1,499 dwellings bought by housebuilder Vistry Homes. 

Elsewhere in the county, a 13.5-acre site at the East of England Showground in Peterborough with permission for 130 homes was bought by Bellway Eastern Counties, a 17-acre site at Alconbury Weald, near Huntingdon, with permission for 206 homes was sold to Morris Homes and a 10-acre site at Highfields in Littleport, to the north of Cambridge, earmarked for 126 homes sold to Persimmon. Meanwhile 21.5 acre and 14-acre sites at Wintringham, St Neots, with permission for 336 homes and 293 homes were bought by housebuilders Barratts and Durkan respectively.  

In Essex, a 71-acre site at Great Leighs near Chelmsford with permission for 525 homes was sold to Bellway Homes, while Bellway Homes Thames Gateway purchased the former water treatment works at Fobbing, near Thurrock, which has been earmarked for 168 homes. 

In Suffolk, a 58-acre site at Candlet Road in Felixstowe, with permission for 560 properties – 35 per cent of which will be affordable – was sold to Persimmon Homes, while in the neighbouring county of Norfolk Taylor Wimpey purchased a 64.5-acre site with permission for 550 homes at the Birch Gate development in Wymondham.

Elsewhere a 93-acre site to the east of Stevenage in Hertfordshire with planning permission for 618 homes has been purchased by Redrow, while a 15-acre site with permission for 150 homes at Towergate in Milton Keynes was bought by Crest Nicholson.

Richard Janes, head of development at Savills in Cambridge, said: “Fuelled by an exceptionally strong housing market there remains continued demand for good-sized sites in the East of England benefitting from plenty of surrounding countryside and good connectivity via existing road and rail networks.

The shortage of supply – in particular for sweet spot sites up to 200 homes – has heightened competition and led to the highest growth in land values since 2014 when housebuilders were replenishing their pipelines and increasing their output supported by the economic recovery and start of Help to Buy.

Most housebuilders bought more sites in 2021 than the previous year and they are now getting back to pre Covid-19 levels of land buying which is enabling them to fill gaps in their pipelines and to progress their future growth strategies.”

According to Savills research the cost of greenfield land increased by an average of 11.5 per cent in the East of England last year when compared to 2020 – the highest rise of any region. The increase was also greater than the UK average of 8.8 per cent. Urban sites meanwhile increased in value by an average of 5.5 per cent compared to a UK average of 6.8 per cent. 

Andy Redman, head of development for Savills across Essex and Suffolk, said: “The fundamentals of the development market remain extremely strong and whilst the market, in general, is underpinned by demand for housing outstripping supply there are noticeable trends such as a move to more home working which is making locations which might previously have been dismissed now becoming targets for developers.

Looking ahead, although there is some uncertainty around rising build costs, we expect market activity to remain at levels similar to last year – with opportunities for all parties and those taking innovative approaches likely to see the best returns. 

Growth of the Build to Rent sector for example is likely to continue, while at the same time the private and affordable housing markets remain robust, with strong demand from developers not merely in the traditionally strong areas of North London and Essex but also pushing out into more rural locations.”

Image source: Savills

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