HL Deb 01 December 1992 vol 540 cc1252-3

2.55 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will increase derelict land grant allocations in order to speed up reclamation and redevelopment projects.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the resources for derelict land grant have been increased by more than 30 per cent. in real terms since 1989–90. The programme for the current year totals £106 million. We are maintaining that level of support for 1993–94 so that there will be no slackening in the rate at which land is reclaimed as the programme transfers to the Urban Regeneration Agency.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Will he tell the House what is involved as regards the agency which the Government have now set up? What are its terms of reference? What is its accountability? What is its relationship with the urban programmes and the city challenge programmes?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the agency will be given powers to acquire and develop land and buildings by agreement or compulsorily. It will issue grants and loans for reclamation and development of land. It will bring together the existing schemes of the derelict land grant, city grant and English Estates. I understand that there is no problem as regards the agency working in city challenge areas. A Bill is currently going through another place which will reach this House in due course.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the Minister agree that it is not the grants which are holding up development but the state of the property market? Will he tell us what steps the Government are taking in order to encourage the reclaiming of some of those sites for reasonable property development which will help the construction industry?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, it is the reduction in the price of the property which creates a great opportunity for local authorities to use the derelict land grant because they will be able to buy more land for their money.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, is it not the case that there are some 40,000 acres of derelict land in England and Wales? Is it not important that the Government should give every encouragement to the use of that land for development rather than using green field sites? Will the Minister assure the House that that aspect of the matter is continually in the Government's mind?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. That is precisely why we are in the process of setting up the new Urban Regeneration Agency.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, does the Minister mean that the Urban Regeneration Agency will be yet another unelected quango which is able to override elected local authorities? Will there be no derelict land grant available to local authorities after the agency has opened for business? Is the noble Lord aware also that, if the Government are determined, as they seem to be determined, to shut down the British coal industry, there will be plenty of opportunities for the reclamation of derelict land and that local authorities will have a vital role to play in that area?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, of course local authorities have a vital role to play. The Urban Regeneration Agency will create partnerships between local authorities and the private sector to help reclaim derelict land and thus improve the quality of the environment to which the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, referred.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, will the noble Lord explain what he means by partnership? Does he mean that local authorities will be given more money or that the agency will bring its own money to extend the work already done by local authorities?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, there is every desire for the agency to work very closely with local authorities. There is an extremely important role for local authorities to play in the reclamation of derelict land.

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