Housing minister Grant Shapps has signalled measures to make it easier for individuals and communities to improve their local area by using disused publicly owned land for new development.
By the summer the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will establish a new one-stop shop with information about empty land and buildings.
This new online tool will combine information from existing databases to provide the basis of a new community right - the right to reclaim land. This will also include an improved system for members of the public to request that empty public sector land or buildings are sold off, so they can be brought back into use.
Ministers have stressed that in the future members of the public will be able to access information about land owned by a much broader range of public bodies, and the system for considering requests will be streamlined, with all but the most sensitive decisions considered alongside other planning casework, instead of Government ministers.
As part of this move Shapps has urged Government departments to make more information about their surplus land available. To kick start this initiative the minister has published, for the first time, a detailed list of all the land and property assets owned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
The minister said: “Under our plans, communities will no longer be kept in the dark about what land is available; instead they will be able to see at the click of a button what local opportunities there are for development.”
He added: “I am determined that this system works, so I want to hear any suggestions for improvements, and if necessary I will use legislation to make sure it is local communities who reap the rewards of opportunities to develop local land and buildings that currently lie unused."
DCLG has pointed out that better information about disused land will complement the new Community Right to Build, which will offer communities the chance to give the green light to new developments without the need for specific planning applications.
3 February 2011