HC Deb 23 February 1983 vol 37 cc919-20
9. Mr. Hawksley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, of the 61,000 acres of vacant and derelict land in local authority ownership and included in the vacant land registers at 1 July 1982, how many acres have now been brought into use by the owners.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The latest returns are still being analysed, but it is provisionally estimated that by 1 January this year some 3,800 acres of local authority land had been released from the registers, of which over a third had been brought into use by the owners since registers were published.

Mr. Hawksley

As the Telford area has a total of 2,175 acres on the register, will the Minister consider trying to persuade the development corporation to de-designate and sell any surplus land, although I appreciate that new towns have an above average amount of spare land?

Mr. Shaw

I would certainly be willing to take up my hon. Friend's suggestion, but it is important that those who seek to use land that is on that register should make the application. If it is not being effectively dealt with, I should very much like to know about it, but the local demand must exist.

Mr. Steen

Will my hon. Friend now do something more than merely say that he will persuade nationalised industries and local authorities to do something in the fullness of time? Is he aware that 3 per cent. of all land in Britain is now vacant and that 1.5 million acres are wasting? Bearing in mind that we import more than 50 per cent. of our food, is it not time that we auctioned off some of the derelict public land which is still in ownership and is unused?

Mr. Shaw

I accept my hon. Friend's conclusion that we must apply every possible pressure for the development and disposal of land. With regard to the public register, however, we are dealing with what certain categories of owner possess, for which there is no plan beyond a two-year date. I plead with my hon. Friend to recognise that we will seek to secure disposal, and we could be substantially aided and abetted in this when circumstances improve locally, which would increase the demand for such development to take place.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the Minister take into account the fact that often when local authorities sell land, land sharks take over and make a tremendous profit out of it? Will he ensure at all times that when a local authority sells its land it does so for the benefit of the community as a whole and not for the benefit of a few individuals?

Mr. Shaw

It will be enormously to the benefit of the community if land for which it has no planned development is allowed to be sold and developed, thus producing a greater rateable value for the local authority.