HC Deb 22 January 1992 vol 202 cc309-10
13. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further proposals he has to reduce the extent of derelict or disused land in public ownership.

Sir George Young

My right hon. Friend is today laying before the House regulations requiring local authorities to maintain and publish registers of their unused and underused land. Other possible measures to reduce the extent of such land in public ownership are also being considered.

Mr. Coombs

1 am sure that everyone—at least all Conservative Members—will welcome the news that registers of derelict and disused land are to be published for the first time. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is very sad that nearly 12 years have elapsed since legislation on that issue was first put in place? Is not it about time that further measures deliberately to stimulate the disposal of that land were put to the House?

Sir George Young

As my hon. Friend will know, considerable progress has been made in addressing that problem over the past 12 years through derelict land grant, city grant and other measures. None the less, there are about 150,000 acres of vacant land in urban areas, about half of them publicly owned. For that reason, we are looking at what further measures are necessary to make faster progress.

Mr. Soley

I should start by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on being the only Minister who still answer questions in this decrepit old Government. Will he introduce a register, as he is doing in respect of other areas, of Government-owned land and property? I refer, for example, to the 24 houses in Nyland road, Swindon, which have been empty for up to 10 years and the 60 houses that have been empty in RAF Valley, Bryn Trewan estate, which are about to be sold off as a job lot, presumably to depress the housing market while we keep families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. All those properties have been empty and unused, and all are owned by the Government. They are part of the 16 per cent. of the empty housing stock owned by the Government. We have no register, no action, bed-and-breakfast, cardboard city—what a record.

Sir George Young

If the hon. Gentleman really wants to do something about empty houses, perhaps he will address his political colleagues in Liverpool, for example, where one in 10 houses are vacant. Perhaps he will talk to his political colleagues in Manchester, Lambeth, Hackney and Southwark. That is where the bulk of the empty houses lie, and that is where he should use his energy to make progress.

Sir Anthony Durant

When my hon. Friend looks at structure plans, will he take account of empty land that is owned by nationalised industries, local government or any other local authority?

Sir George Young

As my hon. Friend will know, it is the purpose of a structure plan to identify appropriate land use for the totality of land in a certain area. We would certainly expect local authorities, be they counties or districts, to identify positive uses for derelict land and to bring it back into use before they come up with proposals to make any encroachment on green-field land or land in the green belt.

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