§ 2. Mr. Summerson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to consult the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors about the amount of public vacant and derelict land currently listed in the land registers.
§ The Minister for Housing and Planning (Sir George Young)
I am considering the RICS response to my Department's recent consultation paper as part of the Government's review of policy relating to vacant public land.
Analysis of land use changes has shown that in the past few years 45 per cent. of all land developed for new housing has been vacant or recycled land in urban areas, and in the south-east the proportion is even higher: 57 per cent. in 1988. We must continue to see that the potential of vacant land in our cities is properly used, to help meet housing need and to stop the unnecessary use of green-field sites.
941 My officials are currently looking in detail at the Secretary of State's register for London and the south-east to see what potential the sites on it may have for housing use.
§ Mr. Summerson
My hon. Friend will be aware that much of the impetus in tackling difficult sites comes from a partnership between the private and public sectors. When he next consults the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will he take a fresh look at the proliferation of Government regulations that are threatening to inhibit the setting up of such partnerships? On that occasion, will he stress the utility of derelict land grant for realising the potential of difficult sites, even in districts of high land value?
§ Sir George Young
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his two suggestions. Yes, we shall look at any bureaucratic problems that are in the way of the derelict land grant. The city action teams and task forces that operate in many of the districts involved are there precisely to overcome such problems. On my hon. Friend's second question, £88 million of derelict land grant will be available next year—a useful 20 per cent. increase on the amount available this year.
§ Mr. Nellist
Just before Christmas the Land Registry opened its records to anyone who wants to inquire about ownership of land or property, subject to a small fee. Does not the Minister think, therefore, that it would be a good idea for his Department to encourage councils and provide the finance to assist them to approach the Land Registry to find out about derelict or unoccupied land or houses so that the hundreds, if not thousands, of houses in every town and city could be taken over by councils and used to ease the housing shortage?
§ Sir George Young
As the private Member who introduced the Bill on opening up access to the Land Registry, I am grateful for the support that I had from the Opposition. Before the local authorities use the Land Registry for the purpose described by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), perhaps they should look at the empty properties already in their ownership. They should bring them back into use before persecuting people in the private sector.
§ Mr. Steen
As the economy is picking up, it is clear that more housing will be needed and will be built on land throughout Britain. Does my hon. Friend agree that as there are still 88,000 acres of vacant, derelict, dormant and underused land on the Land Registry, the Government should introduce some private sector involvement to get rid of that land? They should direct developers to develop on that derelict and vacant land before building on green-field sites, particularly in the south and south-east where there is great pressure to destroy more and more of our green and pleasant countryside.
§ Sir George Young
It is precisely for that reason that I have asked my officials to look specifically at land on the Land Registry in London and the south-east that might be used for housing to see whether we can make faster progress in meeting some of the housing demand in the south-east without impinging on the green fields to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) rightly gave priority.