Danny Alexander introduces ‘Right to Contest’ on publicly owned land

Treasury – from Todays HBF conference.

You’ve told us that another factor holding back new house building has been land supply.

And – again – this is something the government is acting on.

Back in 2011, we set ourselves the ambitious goal of releasing land capacity for 100 000 homes by 2015, and we’ve made good progress.

We’ve already released land with capacity for 58,000 homes…

But we recognise that we need to do more, to ensure that land is used properly.

Too often we see that land that could be used for housing or for business – even for recreation – that is instead left for the grass to grow, and indeed sometimes for wildlife to move in.

And far too often for my liking, that neglected, or underused land is government owned – be that at a local or a national level.

In fact, independent estimates suggest that the public sector holds around 40% of developable sites and around 27% of brownfield land suitable for housing.

And I believe that we should make that land available.

After all, we need to remember that we – as government – are the custodian of the taxpayers’ assets.

And so when we no longer need those assets – or when we’re not putting them to good public use – we should be prepared to sell them back at a fair price.

We certainly shouldn’t act as some kind of compulsive hoarder of land.

It is for that reason, that I can tell you today, that next month will see launch our new Right to Contest scheme.

Under current law, members of the public have the right to challenge Local Authorities and government departments to release land that is vacant or underused.

But Right to Contest will expand this even further, so that if there is any land owned by central government departments that members of the public – or your organisations – think you can make better use of, then you can challenge us to release it, even if it is currently in use.

If ministers are convinced that the site can be used in a more economically valuable way – for business, for homebuilding – then we will sell that land on the open market…

And we will use the proceeds from the sale to pay down our debt, and to invest in our economy.

We’re also undertaking a new strategic land review, which will build on this right and invite input from industry and Local Authorities to help identify where further land can be made surplus or redundant and sold to support construction and local growth.