One Public Estate

In this joint feature from the Government Property Unit and the Local Government Association, we find out more about the delivery of The One Public Estate (OPE) programme that supports cross-public sector working

The One Public Estate (OPE) programme is jointly delivered by the Cabinet Office Government Property Unit (GPU) and the Local Government Association (LGA). It supports cross-public sector working to deliver ambitious property-led projects that create local economic growth, integrate public services and drive efficiency savings. At its heart, it’s about local and central government working together with other public bodies to transform communities and local public services and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

The programme is playing a critical role in supporting engagement between central government departments and councils to unlock land for new homes, support economic growth, deliver efficiency savings to reinvest in frontline services and bring services together under one roof. OPE is about supporting national and local partners to take a place-based approach to improve outcomes.

The programme launched in 2013 with 12 pilot council areas. Each area received seed funding and support from the One Public Estate team to establish a series of projects where joint working across the public sector would enable partners to deliver better outcomes. After 18 months of establishing a working practice and demonstrating what this new way of working could achieve, the UK government announced £31 million in funding over two years in the Autumn Statement 2015.

This funding allowed the programme to rapidly expand in both its scale and ambition. December saw the latest cohort of new and existing partnerships successfully bidding for funding and support. The programme we see today is of national significance, involving 319 councils in England (more than 90%) working in 76 partnerships.

We are already seeing the benefits of the hard work by partnerships as part of early pilot phases of the programme. To date, early OPE projects have raised £70 million in capital receipts, cut running costs by £20 million, created 5,700 new jobs and released land for more than 1,300 new homes. This is over and above what they would have delivered without OPE partnership working.

A key strength of the programme is its flexibility. Whilst partnerships are encouraged to use public land and property to meet One Public Estate objectives, they are supported to do so in a way that meets local priorities. For example, in Cornwall – one of the country’s most rural areas – partners are using OPE to work in partnership to deliver 10 integrated public service hubs in key areas across the county.

These hubs will bring a range of public bodies including the council, health, Job Centre Plus and emergency services together under one roof. A great early success in Cornwall has been the development of a blue-light service centre in Hayle and the country’s first Tri-blue-light services officer – a trained paramedic, police and fire officer. As well as improving services for communities, the hubs proposals expect to raise over £3 million in capital receipts, save organisations £2 million in running costs and release land for 480 homes by 2020.

OPE support is also a key part of delivering national estate transformation programmes. For example, the Ministry of Defence Better (MoD) Defence Estate Strategy 2016 set out plans to reduce the size of the built estate by a third by 2040. OPE is supporting joint working between MoD and a number of councils across the country to release surplus MoD land for new homes. The NHS Five Year Forward View sets out plans to move health services to the community where possible and to continue to better integrate health and social care services. OPE is supporting health partners, councils and others to bring related services together under one roof, improving public access and better integrating services. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is reforming the benefits system. OPE is supporting DWP to co-locate employment services with council benefits services offering a simpler route to accessing public services.

A core objective of OPE is to unlock public sector land for new homes. The Bedford and Central Bedfordshire OPE partnership are using the programme to release public land in Bedford town centre. High demand for new homes has seen Bedford Borough Council take a proactive role in bringing land to the housing market. Through the programme, partners have identified a number of publically owned sites across the town centre including surplus council and NHS land, a Magistrates Court and Network Rail land which may be suitable for redevelopment.

OPE support and funding is being used to masterplan the area and undertakes works to prepare sites for redevelopment. Early wins have seen the police move from the town centre police station into the council’s offices. Not only has this move enabled the police station to be released for redevelopment, it has also enabled the police and council’s neighbourhood teams to work together to improve community services. Overall, 15 sites in the town have been identified by public partners for release, set to unlock land for over 1,000 new homes by 2020.

The programme offers partnerships with funding and practical support. OPE has a joint team from the Government Property Unit in Cabinet Office and the Local Government Association. We have regionally-based staff who work closely with partnerships across the country, as well as a central programme team largely based in Whitehall. The team provide access to UK government decision-makers and plays a brokering role between partners where needed, to unlock barriers to delivery. We also provide support to establish strong local governance arrangements, local leadership and project management needed to deliver projects locally.

To date, the programme has supported more than 400 projects across England, delivered in partnership with a wide range of public bodies. By 2020, established OPE partnerships are set to create 44,000 jobs, unlock land for 25,000 homes, raise £615 million in capital receipts from sales and cut running costs by £158 million.

© Crown copyright

Angela Harrowing

Deputy Director, Asset Efficiency and One Public Estate

Government Property Unit, Cabinet Office


Brian Reynolds

Director, One Public Estate

Local Government Association

Tel: +44 (0)20 7664 3000


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here