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18/01/2021

Government says public should have right to ask councils to release land for redevelopment

Words: Laura Edgar
Robert Jenrick / Chris McAndrew

The government has published for consultation proposals that would enable the public to challenge councils and other public bodies to release underused land for redevelopment.

The ‘right to regenerate’ proposals mean that underused public land could be sold to individuals or communities by default – unless there is a “compelling reason” for the owner to keep it.

Public bodies would need to demonstrate clear plans for the land in the near future – even if it is a temporary use before later development. If it were kept for long without being used, it would have to be sold.

The rights would also apply to unused publicly owned social housing and garages. The government notes that the latest figures show there were more than 25,000 vacant council-owned homes and recent Freedom of Information data shows there were more 100,000 empty council-owned garages last year.

The government says it wishes to provide local communities with an opportunity to “transform eyesores” into something they want in their area. It builds on government work to encourage development on brownfield land.

Jenrick said: “Right to regenerate is the simple way to turn public land into public good, with land sold by default unless there is a very compelling reason not to do so.

“We are cutting through red tape so that communities can make better use of available land and derelict buildings, which means more new homes, businesses and community assets.

“Millions of people will now be able to buy that empty property, unused garage or parcel of land and turn it into something good for them and their community.”

Tom Chance, chief executive of the National Community Land Trust Network, welcomed the idea.

“There are hundreds of community land trusts across the country wanting to build much-needed affordable housing, but getting hold of land at an affordable price is a huge barrier.

“The potential for communities to be given first right of refusal could be a game changer. We encourage everyone to read through the proposals and respond to the consultation.”

Ian Harvey, executive director of Civic Voice, added: “Across the country, communities see land that remains empty and wonder why. They imagine how it could be used for communities – from green space, to housing – but when they enquire about enhancing the space it’s never clear who owns it.

“If a community has a viable use for this land, they must be given the opportunity to take these ideas forward.

“The ‘right to regenerate’ is a great step forward to build on previous attempts at doing this and we believe it will increase the chance for communities to come together to bring vacant land into the heart of the community. We look forward to working with communities on this latest community right.”

The consultation, which closes on 13 March, can be found here on the UK Government website. 

Image credit | iStock

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