§ Mr. Baldry
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in bringing idle land owned by public bodies back into use.
§ Mr. Ridley
Since the registers of unused and underused land were first compiled in 1981, some 50,000 acres of this land has been removed from the registers because it has been sold or brought into use by the owners. This has been achieved through publicity, financial discipline and the use of the power to direct disposal. These measures will continue to be applied; and provisions to improve their effectiveness are contained in the Local Government Bill.
I consider that publication of information by the public bodies themselves about the unused and underused land they own would provide a significant incentive to the efficient management of land assets, which the recently published Audit Commission report indicated was needed in the case of local authorities. And it would contribute to the public accountability of the bodies concerned.
I therefore intend that public bodies should regularly publish this information and as a first step I will be consulting the local authority associations on how local authorities are to do so.