Development land prices for greenfield land in England dipped in 2015, while prices in prime central London remained broadly flat, but urban brownfield site values, particularly in key regional cities, rose strongly during the year.
After rising by 50% in the four years to September 2015, prime central London development land prices are starting to ease, falling by 2.7% over the last six months, according to the residential land development index from Knight Frank.
It means that development land prices in the prime central London market has dipped for two quarters in a row while values for greenfield land overall in England are down for the fifth consecutive quarter.
Greenfield development land values fell by 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 4.9% year on year while prime central London land prices remained broadly flat in 2015. Urban development land prices, however, bucked the trend, rising by 2.5% in the final three months of 2015.
The development land index, based on the valuations of actual development sites around the country, shows a multi speed land market. Prices of mainly brownfield land in key cities, including outer London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol led the urban growth.
A 2.5% increase in the final three months of the year took annual growth for urban development land sites to 11.9% and according to Grainne Gilmore, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank this reflects the highly regionalised nature of the housing market at present, with price performance in many key cities and commuter towns outperforming the wider average.
‘The price growth differential also reflects the strengthening appetite for land among developers and housebuilders in regional hubs. This demand has picked up significant momentum in the last 12 months, lagging the pick-up in demand seen in the wider greenfield market two years ago,’ she explained.
She also pointed out that house builders active in the greenfield market have largely replenished their pipeline land supplies, although they are still active in the market for smaller, oven ready sites.
‘The length of the planning process means that taking on large speculative schemes is hard to balance against the cost of capital involved in doing so. At the same time, developers are operating in a period of higher build costs, and a key part of this is the difficulty in accessing skilled labour which still remains in short supply,’ Gilmore said.
‘On the other hand, better local economic growth in key regional cities, coupled with more buyer confidence has resulted in a resurgence of development, and this is reflected in competition for good brownfield sites,’ she added.
Focusing on prime central London, the data shows that land prices dipped by 1.1% in the final quarter of the year, resulting in a marginal decline in prices of 0.2% over the course of the year. This echoes the slowing of price growth in this central area of London, with prime property prices rising by 1% over the year to the end of February, down from 1.2% in January.