§ 10. Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much derelict land has been handed over to the Property Services Agency by Government Departments for disposal and has not been sold after 12 months.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Christopher Chope)
As at 31 December 1987 a total of 2,558 acres of surplus landed property sites which had been passed to the PSA for disposal remained unsold after 12 months.
Am I right in thinking that most of the land is owned by the Ministry of Defence? Will my hon. Friend confirm that I would be right in having confidence in his being able, with his usual courtesy and irresistibility, to persuade the PSA to put its delicate feet on the accelerator and sell off its land so that it can be put to good use?
§ Mr. Chope
Almost all that land is surplus defence land. It represents less than 0.5 per cent. of the total defence estate of almost 700,000 acres. About 1,000 acres are agricultural and are subject to offer back to the former owners. That process takes longer than a straightforward sale.
I assure my hon. Friend that the Property Services Agency is selling the land rapidly—at the rate of over 2,200 acres per year for the past four years.
§ Mr. David Nicholson
Should not that programme have an even higher priority? Does my hon. Friend recognise the paradox and the frustration that I and several hon. Members feel when we see controversy over housing development in the green field sites in our constituencies, but whenever we travel, as I did recently, to the west midlands or the Greater Manchester conurbation, we see vast tracts of derelict and under-used land, which is owned by a variety of authorities?
§ Mr. Steen
If my hon. Friend is, understandably, frustrated by the amount of land that is still on the register, will he explain why all Crown land is excluded from the register? Will he tell the House how many acres of vacant, derelict and dormant land in his own Department is not being used or put to good use?
§ Mr. McCartney
The Minister has stated the Government's commitment to dispose of derelict land and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) commented on the vast tracts of land in Greater Manchester. Is it not a fact that in Greater Manchester Labour local authorities have one of the largest and the best programmes of derelict land reclamation in Europe? One difficulty that frustrates us is that the Government have not provided the additional resources to maintain the type of activity that promotes the regeneration of urban land in both the public and private sectors. If the Government make that commitment, will the Minister increase greatly the resources available to local authorities which have such programmes so that they can develop them, in conjunction with public and private enterprise?