HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc398-9
12. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the contents of the registers of local authority land which he has required to he compiled under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980.

Mr. Heseltine

Registers of unused and underused public land more than one acre in extent have been published in 27 out of the 33 areas so far designated to have them. In total, the 27 now contain 1,723 sites amounting to 16,366 acres. Two more registers, for Birmingham and Sandwell, will be published this Friday.

As I stated in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) on 26 June, about one-third of the registered acreage is now considered to be suitable for development.

Mr. Latham

Is not the figure of 16,000 acres of unused land absolutely disgraceful? Is it not clear that if local authorities do not take action to get that land developed quickly, my right hon. Friend should use his powers under the Act to require them to do so?

Mr. Heseltine

I very much support my hon. Friend's views. Nothing indicates more the misgovernment of Britain under the previous Administration than that they allowed this scandal of public sector land to go unchecked in the way in which these registers have now demonstrated.

Mr. Jay

Is the Secretary of State aware that the largest unused building site in my constituency, which is in the ownership of a private property company, has been unused for 15 years and that now, because of the Government's interest rate policy, it cannot be developed? What does he propose to do about that?

Mr. Heseltine

The right hon. Member will be aware that I cannot have knowledge of every site in his constituency. However, I am sure that he will want to examine the scale of other publicly owned land that might exist in his constituency and which could be made available for more profitable use at an early date.

Mr. Durant

Will my right hon. Friend look at the whole question of derelict land in relation to all public authorities—the gas board, the coal board and so on? This is a public scandal. These tracts of land are lying available. Why should they not be used?

Mr. Heseltine

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, because his question gives me an opportunity to make it clear that the 16,000 acres of land to which I have referred is not just local authority land but the land of public undertakers, too.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Secretary of State undertake to place in the Library of the House details of all the sites to which he has referred which are suitable for building development but which have been subject to abandonment or postponement of local authority building schemes as a result of the Government restricting the money available?

Mr. Heseltine

It is an easy choice for the local authority concerned to let the private sector develop the land for housing at an early date.