Proposals to ease sale of public land for planning purposes out for consultation

BUDGET 2018: The government has proposed the 'switching on' of a secretary of state power to issue a general consent allowing councils to dispose of public land for planning purposes without ministerial consent.

MHCLG: Department wants to ease public land disposals
MHCLG: Department wants to ease public land disposals

A consultation published alongside yesterday’s Budget  proposes a series of policy changes to "extend local authorities’ freedoms to [sell their land] without seeking consent from the secretary of state, thereby providing greater flexibility to dispose of surplus land in support of local development objectives".

The document says government policy on the disposal of public land "starts from the principle that local authorities and other public bodies should sell surplus land for the best consideration that can be reasonably obtained".

However, it adds, the government "also recognises that, in some instances, it may be appropriate for local authorities and the Greater London Authority to dispose of land at an undervalue because wider public benefits, economic, social or environmental, would be created by that disposal".

"This may, for example, help support local community initiatives and facilitate regeneration projects that deliver new housing, including the provision of affordable housing," it adds.

The consultation says the current requirement for councils to seek specific consent from the secretary of state for the sale of public land at an undervalue in order to progress development proposals is "unnecessary".

It says that the current process "can delay disposals and hold up development schemes, including for new housing".

The document says that the secretary of state’s power to issue a general consent for the disposal of land held for such planning purposes, set out under measures in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, "has not yet been exercised, but this consultation invites responses on whether it should now be switched on".

The consultation runs until 14 January 2019. 

Angela Harrowing, deputy director for disposals at the Office of Government Property, told the Planning for Housing conference earlier this month that government property experts are keen to work with local authorities to explore how rationalisation of public land assets can help deliver homes. 

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