Last edited 19 Jan 2021

Right to regenerate

On 16 January 2021, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP announced a consultation on proposals for a new Right to Regenerate that will enable the public to require councils and public sector bodies to sell unused land and assets in England. Underused public land could be sold to individuals or communities by default, unless there is a compelling reason the owner should hold onto it. The public will be able to convert vacant plots of land and derelict buildings into new homes or community spaces.

In 1980, Michael Heseltine introduced powers that form part of the current Right to Contest, giving the public the power to request the sale of underused land owned by public bodies in England, and these were extended through the Community Right to Reclaim Land, in 2011. However, since the 2014 creation of the Right to Contest, only 192 requests have been made and only one has been granted, having usually been refused because the owner had future plans for the land.

Under the new proposals, public bodies would need to have clear plans for land in the near future, even if only a temporary use before later development. If the land is kept for too long without being used, they would be required to sell it. The strengthened rights would also apply to unused publicly-owned social housing and garages, providing opportunities to transform the local housing stock. If a community has a viable use for this land, they must be given the opportunity to take these ideas forward.

The Secretary of State will act as an arbiter to ensure fairness and speedy outcomes in all cases.

Further proposals in the new Right to Regenerate consultation also include:

In addition the consultation proposes measures to improve transparency and assist with record-keeping by requiring councils to follow publicity measures including:

Robert Jenrick MP said: “Right to Regenerate is the simple way to turn public land into public good, with land sold by default, unless there is a very compelling reason not to do so. Millions of people will now be able to buy that empty property, unused garage or parcel of land and turn it into something good for them and their community.”

Tom Chance, Chief Executive of the National Community Land Trust Network, said: “We welcome these plans that could help communities to turn abandoned and neglected land and buildings into fantastic community assets. There are hundreds of community land trusts across the country wanting to build much needed affordable housing, but getting hold of land at an affordable price is a huge barrier.”

The consultation closes on13 March.


Note: The Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 empowers the Secretary of State to direct a body within a specific list of bodies, set out in Schedule 16 to that Act, to take steps to dispose of their interest in that land where that land is not being used or not being sufficiently used. This policy has two strands. Strand 1 covers central government bodies on a voluntary, non-statutory basis, and is administered by the Cabinet Office. Strand 2 covers those public bodies set out in Schedule 16 of the 1980 Act and is administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This consultation relates to Strand 2.

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