Homes England has agreed to acquire 160 acres at Ifield Golf Club, in a major step to deliver a new £3bn garden village outside of Crawley, Sussex.
It is planning to deliver 3,250 homes in the first phase at the 480-acre Ifield site, and will create a masterplan for a 10,000-home village on a wider 1,483-acre footprint in future phases.
Homes England will apply to central government for the site to be recognised as distinct new settlement, with its own community facilities and eligible for state funding.
The acquisition builds on the department’s legacy ownership of 320 acres. It comes as the agency seeks to significantly expand its land and development business, recruiting up to 150 professionals and boosting its strategic land operations to deliver 10,000 homes a year.
Stephen Kinsella, chief land and development officer for Homes England, said: “This is a significant new settlement. It will have a secondary school, two primary schools, employment and local facilities. It’s an area of high affordability pressure, and a great place to build homes – there is huge demand.”
Homes England will review at a later date if it will work with landowners or step in and acquire more land.
Kinsella added: “The agency is prepared to acquire further landholding. There is a commercial decision for us if we acquire the land, there is an element of risk. It is a long-term play.”
Homes England acquired the initial holdings as part of its inherited land ownership from the Commission for New Towns in the 1960s.
The site currently faces a number of challenges, including the potential expansion of Gatwick to the north, the requirement of a large road to alleviate traffic and facilitate growth, and servicing and technical work to prevent flooding.
Homes England will invest £100m in the site, and has estimated that work on the relief road and flooding issues would cost in the region of £70m.
Crawley and Horsham councils have supported the first phase of development, to be confirmed in the 2020 Local Plan, subject to consultation.
The agency will then submit a planning application for phase one and create a masterplan with the infrastructure and capacity for the full 10,000 homes subject to future local plans. It will begin infrastructure works in 2021, with the first homes expected for completion in 2023.
Kinsella said: “This is a big statement demonstrating how we are scaling up as a master developer. It is also a big opportunity for Crawley and Horsham. We can help to deliver the growth of employment by creating places to live for people who work locally.”
Homes England’s land and development department currently owns 20,000 acres of land with the capacity to deliver 70,000 homes.
Since 2016 it has acquired 70 sites for housing delivery, with a focus on large strategic sites with capacity for more than 1,500 homes in the South of England and the regions. Other schemes of note include its 8,500-home Northstowe development in Cambridge, and the 3,000-home Burgess Hill site.