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Gazumpers on the way back to take advantage of shortage of family homes; Director of the residential agency at DTZ's Cardiff office Gareth Carter sees gazumping return to the capital.

Byline: Gareth Carter

THERE is now a growing body of evidence indicating an upturn in the UK housing market.

And while the statistics for average house prices in Wales have yet to show positive growth Cardiff is the clear exception and is now witnessing a return to the practice of gazumping.

During the past few months, throughout Wales house agents have reported increased activity in the number of properties being viewed and sold. This is due to the combined effect of an increase in buyer confidence, an easing in the supply of mortgage products and a willingness of vendors to be realistic and accept offers if they really need to move home.

Cardiff however stands head and shoulders above other regional centres in terms of demand for housing.

The city has always been the property hot-spot in South Wales, both in terms of residential land values and the number of property transactions.

At the height of the boom period in 2006 gross land values for moderate density housing land achieved pounds 2m an acre with smaller sites for multi-storey blocks of flats achieving double that figure. Nowadays the story is quite different, the demand for new-build flats has all but disappeared and this has led to an oversupply of sites with high-density planning consents and few sites for family housing.

Many of the sites with consents for flats and apartments are unlikely to be built on in the foreseeable future. Examples of the more high-profile schemes include Bay Pointe and Roath Basin, in Cardiff Bay, large areas in Dumballs Road and Canal Parade and the "glass needle" in Wood Street. This latter site has remained vacant for the past four years.

There are limited opportunities for someone wanting to buy a conventional two-storey detached house in Cardiff, and apart from a handful of small infill schemes there are only five new homes outlets in the city being promoted by volume developers - at Pentwyn (two schemes), Radyr, Llanishen and Penylan.

Of all of these we could identify only three detached houses for sale and all of them were either 21/2 or three-storey houses.

This limited supply is likely to dry up completely when the largest outlet at Radyr Sidings finishes in 12 months. More worryingly, none of the main developers such as Persimmon, Redrow, Bellway, Barratt and Bryant have any schemes in the pipeline.

Against this background it is no surprise Cardiff house agents are reporting gazumping in the suburbs.

With such a lack of choice, buyers seeking modest three- or four-bedroom conventional family homes are forced to enter bidding contests or look further afield out of the city.

The supply of housing land throughout the UK is ultimately linked to a cumbersome planning system and the future looks bleak for the prospect of new homes in Cardiff as the latest local development plan proposals suggest that there will only be small allocations of greenfield sites on the city fringe.

The planners argue that most of the city's housing can be provided on brownfield (previously developed) sites. As we have said earlier nearly all of the existing brownfield sites are suited only for high-density flats and townhouse units and there needs to be a greater range and choice of housing types.

It is quite obvious that Cardiff now has an adequate supply of flats both new and second-hand for the foreseeable future. The city needs to offer a diverse range of housing types to suit all pockets in order to compete with other centres. The emphasis therefore should be on additional greenfield releases in order to ease the imbalance. Interestingly, most of Cardiff's existing housing land with planning consent for low-rise housing is in public sector ownership. The largest single site is the Welsh Assembly-owned former Wiggins Teape factory site in Leckwith, which has consent for 900 units on 50 acres. There are several sites in Trowbridge owned by Cardiff county council, capable of providing another 1,500 homes.

The Welsh Assembly Government land is currently being marketed; however, there appear to be no obvious plans for the sale of the council's Trowbridge sites.

Cynics would argue that as the authority is in control of the land supply through the local plan system they have a vested interest in restricting the supply of more greenfield land in order to increase the value of what they own.

One of most sought after residential sites, Whitchurch Hospital, is effectively owned by the Welsh Assembly. Unbelievably planning consent on 30 acres has been allowed to lapse and another housing opportunity may have been lost.

With so much of Cardiff's housing land owned by the public sector - which should of course not be held for speculative purposes, why is most of it not being released for development to ease the undersupply of family housing? A consequence of the lack of new homes being built is the impact on the Cardiff's schools already showing an overall decline in pupil numbers which is resulting in the sale of some and the amalgamation of others into larger units. If this situation con-tinues more and more families will be forced out of the city to find suitable homes in the commuter belt and this in turn will increase traffic congestion in and out of the city.

Outside Cardiff the supply of new homes looks to be much easier. For instance in Llanwern near Newport and at Llandarcy, St Modwen own two of the region's largest regeneration sites which together will provide 8,000 homes. The former Cwm coke works site in Beddau is capable of producing a further 800 units, the former Cray Valley Resins site in Machen is likely to be sold in the new year and has a provisional consent for 550 units. The recently closed 100-acre former Alcan site in Rogerstone will no doubt feature a large element of housing in probably a mixed-use scheme.

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IN DEMAND: Cardiff needs more new family homes and fewer flats says Gareth Carter
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 14, 2009
Words:996
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