Scottish Government-backed report demands new powers for councils to force site sales

Scottish planning authorities should be given powers to trigger the sale of disused land or property to the highest bidder, a report by a body established by the Scottish Government has recommended.

Derelict sites: reports backs new purchase power for councils
Derelict sites: reports backs new purchase power for councils

The Scottish Land Commission is a non-departmental public body established in 2017 to examine issues of land use, ownership and taxation.

Its report, Compulsory Sales Orders: A Proposal from the Scottish Land Commission, suggests that such orders (CSOs) could be used to bring an estimated 11,600 hectares of vacant or derelict sites back into use.

The report notes that compulsory purchase orders and rights to be introduced under Scotland’s Community Empowerment Act 2015 will already provide the right to acquire sites.

"While both of these instruments provide a potential route for bringing vacant and derelict land back into productive use, both also require the authority or community in question to have a clear plan in place as to how the land or building in question would be used – but this is not always the case," it says.

"In such cases a CSO would provide a valuable alternative to existing mechanisms and help fill an important gap in the existing policy landscape."

The report says: "When land or property is retained indefinitely and is not used for any productive purpose then it is unlikely to be serving the public interest and may be actively harming the surrounding community". 

In such circumstances, the report adds, "it is proposed that planning authorities should be given the power to trigger a CSO, which would require the site to be sold by public auction or unconditional tender to the highest bidder".   

The document says that it is intended that CSOs "would be particularly appropriate to relatively small sites and less relevant for large or particularly complex development sites".

The report says that its purpose is "to provide the Scottish Government with a robust framework for developing a new CSO power".

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