HL Deb 31 January 1983 vol 438 cc511-2
The Earl Alexander of Tunis

My Lords. I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many acres of vacant land are currently listed in the registers of local authorities and how many acres have been sold since the registers were first established.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, at 1st January the registers contained details of sites of one acre or more amounting to 108,000 acres of unused and under-used land owned by public bodies. By the same date some 6,000 acres of registered land had been disposed of or brought into use.

Earl Alexander of Tunis

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Can he say what proportion is now available for residential purposes?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords. it is estimated from a special study that about 16 per cent. of the land on the first 35 registered appeared to be suitable for housing development.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, can the noble Lord say for how many years this would suffice at the present rate of housebuilding? Is he aware that the national housebuilders feel that this is an overstatement, in a sense, of the amount of land that really would be helpful to them in getting a faster housing programme going?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, it is my understanding that housebuilding depends on demand. but I am sure that the noble Lord would have his own views on that subject. The housebuilding federation also conducted a study and found that 11 per cent. of the land on a sample of 63 registers was both suitable for housing and—and this is the differential—is available to private builders. There is no conflict there with my department's estimate. I am afraid I cannot say how long this land would last at the current rate of housebuilding. If I may. I shall take the opportunity to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, can my noble friend say, or provide and estimate to the House, what percentage of the land has actually appeared on the register? No local government is perfect. Perhaps one could form an estimate that a half, or three-quarters, of all the publicly-owned land is on the register now, or is it 100 per cent.? What is the percentage actually on the register?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am afraid I do not have details on that. However, I would point out, as I pointed out when I was answering a similar Question on 24th January. that we are not entirely talking about local authorities. Although the counties and districts between them make up 61,000 acres—that is 64 per cent. of the total—nationalised industries and statutory undertakers have declared 24,000 acres: Government departments and other Crown bodies, 2,000: and other public bodies such as new towns, housing corporations and so on, a further 8.000 acres. Therefore. no one should run away with the idea that local authorities are entirely to blame in this matter.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, while the general view of local authorities is that this land will be needed for housing development over the next 10 years, can the noble Lord say what percentage of the land held by them is deemed to be suitable for industrial development?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the land falls, as I understand it, into three categories. I have already identified the 16 per cent. which is thought to be suitable for housebuilding. There is a small amount of agricultural land, and I would assume that the rest is suitable for factory sites and roads, car parks, or perhaps extensions to stations and such things.

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