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Tesco frees up land for housing

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Following recent criticism for landbanking 310 unused sites for ‘future stores’, Tesco has announced it will build 4,000 new homes with a new £1bn construction programme.

The Guardian revealed the latest news after it first announced that the retailer had been sitting on 1,137 acres earmarked for development. A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are pleased to be bringing new investment to communities up and down the country and playing our part in meeting local housing needs over the coming years."

Among the Tesco sites set for housing developments will be Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, close to the retailer's operational headquarters, where it plans to build more than 700 homes on a site where it previously planned a store. ‘Property Week’ said the majority of the sites will be in the south-east of England but developments are also scheduled further north, including in Liverpool and the west of England. Schemes include 80 houses and flats on the former Evershed printing works site in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, said Tesco was under pressure to act due to public and political demand for space to build housing, alongside calls from shareholders to recoup some of the value of the land.

"This is a silver lining on a very dark cloud," said Black. "Tesco is at least trying to maximise value after a high-profile profits write down but it's not clear how much it will be able to claw back. It's a sensible move and better than building a Tesco store that's not economic or selling to the competition."

This is an opportunity for the supermarket giant to get involved with other sectors such as housing associations. Philippa Jones, executive director at Bromford said: "We welcome this change of view by Tesco and are keen to talk to them about a partnership approach to any sites they plan to release in our operating areas.”