Community groups could regenerate derelict land, says Minister

Minister for Communities and Local Government, David Miliband MP, has called for community groups to be given extra rights to buy derelict or disused land to drive regeneration.

Speaking at the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) annual conference, Mr Miliband said that community groups should be given first refusal to buy derelict council property, before developers could make an offer, in the same manner as the “Community Right to Buy” legislation in Scotland.

This community ownership, to build parks, children’s playgrounds, youth centres and other community focused centres, would “help generate trust amongst residents and so establish norms of decent behaviour and respect.”

“Some of the best regeneration in this country is through social entrepreneurs within communities spotting untapped opportunities and generating value out of assets which were previously under-utilised,” he said.

Through ownership of such assets, community groups would be able to borrow money, leverage private finance and generate new social enterprises which generate revenue.

“For example, many of our New Deal for Communities have brought land and constructed buildings such as health centres and will now warn rent many years after the ten year programme has finished,” Mr Miliband told delegates. “The result is more independence and more social and economic life in the community.”

Mr Miliband said that community right to buy would represent as big a transfer of wealth and power to communities as housing right to but represented for individuals.

“We are not talking about an alternative to major development. We are talking about the potential of the voluntary and community sector to take disused or under-used land and buildings – youth or community centres, unoccupied housing and undeveloped land – and turn it into a vibrant resource for the community, raising not just morale but the value of other properties. We are determined to look at this issue as we develop our vision of sustainable communities.”

These changes, together with an enhanced strategic role for local government, would, he said, help create “a society where power is in the hands of the many not the few.”

David Hopkins

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie