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Right to Regenerate: what is the new Government consultation?

Right to Regenerate: what is the new Government consultation?

15th February 2021 - Published by Kuits Planning team

If you are aware of the national housing shortage and the Government’s carrot and stick approach to encourage both developers and Councils to bring forward more housing stock, seeing underused and derelict land and buildings in seemingly sustainable locations can be frustrating.

Brownfield Land

Derelict land by its very nature is previously developed or ‘brownfield land’, which, since the late nineties, has been pushed by successive governments as a priority for redevelopment. Some of this land can sit amidst modern and attractive commercial or residential development with an already ‘dense’ use. It can be located in urban areas already identified as being ideal for housing, enabling an easier path through the planning process. Planning officers and planning committee members commonly favour brownfield redevelopment proposals over more controversial, and politically sensitive, previously underdeveloped greenfield or greenbelt development. It seems to make perfect sense to the layman and property professionals alike to redevelop previously used sites rather than push further into greenfield land to solve the housing crisis. Indeed, the White Paper issued last year with a view to reforming the planning system promoted securing the most effective re-use of land. In the revised National Planning Policy Framework issued in early 2019, the reuse of brownfield land, became an even more prominent feature than in the previous version.

So why is the Government bringing out yet another consultation with yet another push to redevelop this type of land, particularly when less than a year ago there was an announcement in the budget of a £400 million ‘Brownfield Land Fund’? Why does there need to be new rights in order to regenerate this land in addition to funding? Well, as with many attractive things, the beauty of a brownfield site may only be skin deep. It is acknowledged that one of the barriers to the redevelopment of brownfield land is the cost, which can be prohibitive. Brownfield sites typically require preparatory work before any new development goes ahead. This preparation may be restorative or regenerative but also may involve site acquisition of occupied, adjacent land in order to bring forward a scheme that is viable for development. The costs are not just the costs involved in removing physical obstacles such as fly tipped rubbish or derelict buildings, but de-contamination costs which can run into thousands of pounds and are complex to estimate and insert into viability assessments.

Right to Regenerate

With a view to easing the path further to brownfield regeneration and reuse, on 16 January 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that they would be consulting upon a new “Right to Regenerate”.  This consultation is intended to help shape and build upon the Right to Contest, in order to encourage land to be utilised more effectively and to stimulate the regeneration and more productive use of land. The Government admits that “This right [to contest] is little-known and little-used, with only one direction to dispose issued since 2014…..The aim of this consultation is to strengthen that right and make it simpler to use”. It hopes that the right to regenerate will “support greater regeneration of brownfield land, boost housing supply and empower people to turn blights and empty spaces in their areas into more beautiful developments”.

The Right to Regenerate is intended to allow members of the public to require unused land and assets owned by local authorities and the public sector to be sold and converted into new homes or community spaces. It is hoped that the proposals will lead to new homes, businesses and community assets by challenging councils and other public organisations to release land for redevelopment if they do not have firm plans for its use.  It is proposed that the individual or community group requesting the sale of the derelict land would have first refusal to purchase it. This would make such land attractive to homeowners looking to extend their existing property if their house abutted such a plot or for a community group looking for land for a beneficial community use. If public bodies do not have plans to use the derelict land within a clear timeframe and the land remains vacant, derelict or unused, the land will be required to be sold.

Planning Control

Of course, the finer details will have to be ironed out; one person’s opinion of what is derelict, unused or even underused may not be another’s. Councils will also surely seek to impose some type of planning control on land acquired in this way and the consultation includes the question of what conditions, if any, would be appropriate. The question of the value of the land is also a pertinent one. How will such land be valued if a sale is ‘forced’? Will those seeking to acquire it be allowed to enter the land to carry out the requisite site investigations and soil surveys to see if the land can indeed be used as they would like it to be? If not, and it is later found that the site is contaminated or otherwise unviable for redevelopment, does a piece of derelict land simply pass from one owner to the next?

The consultation itself can be found here and responses to the consultation should be submitted by 13 March 2021.

Get in touch with a Planning Solicitor in Manchester

If you would like advice on planning applications, please contact specialist Planning Solicitor Victoria Leam on 0161 503 2998 or email victorialeam@kuits.com

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