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Tesco hoard land despite urgent need for housing

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Despite already having more than 3,300 stores, Tesco was this week criticised in the Guardian after it was revealed the supermarket giant had ‘landbanked’ 310 sites for ‘future stores.’

The struggling retail group currently holds 1,137 acres earmarked for potential development in the next few years if the chain sees sales pick up.

The dormant land has the potential to be used for 15,000 homes, the size of the Government’s proposed ‘Garden City’ in Ebbsfleet, leading to widespread criticism by other supermarkets and the housing sector.

A Tesco spokesman told the Guardian: "We only buy land with the intention of delivering developments. Like other supermarkets, we own a pipeline of sites where we intend to develop new stores for our customers over the coming years. As we have previously announced, in response to changing customer shopping habits we have decided to reduce the new space we build each year, building fewer large stores.

"Where we no longer intend to develop sites, we sell them, lease them or develop them for housing. We are very willing to sell or lease sites to other retailers where they make the best commercial offer, and have done so many times."

Tesco is not alone: in 2010 a number of supermarkets were pulled up for landbanking to prevent rivals for development. Similarly, a host of property developers and construction companies have been accused of hoarding land to push up value and hold off competition.

With this bitter land war going between multi-million pound corporations, businesses with real land objectives are missing out. Organisations such as Bromford, with a clear social mission, are keen to develop any piece of land, not just those earmarked for social housing or ‘brownfields.’

Bromford is currently seeking land for specialist retirement housing and supported housing for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.

With a focus on innovation, the recent rejection of government grant funding and a secure credit rating from Moody’s of Aa3, the 60,000 customer social enterprise doesn’t have to rely on ‘cheap land’ and is instead building quick turnaround relationships with land agents.

Josie Bishton, new ventures manager said: “We don’t require a grant subsidy and so are not tied to funding rounds or external timescales which means we can move forward much more quickly than other providers. This represents a less expensive alternative to residential care and could mean an overall saving to local authorities.”