Government Departments: Land

Cabinet Office written question – answered on 23rd May 2019.

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Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Lord President of the Council

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the National Audit Office's 2 May 2019 report entitled Investigation into the government’s land disposal strategy and programmes, for what reasons 176 sites from the government estate were disposed of for £1 or less.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The National Audit Office investigation into the government's land disposal strategy and programmes referenced 176 sites which were sold since 2015 for £1 or less. Details of each of these sites are already published on GOV.UK in annual Transparency Reports listing all Government land sales. The April 2018 publication reports on sales in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The January 2019 publication reports on sales in 2017/18. The common reasons for sales at £1 or less are:

  • sites where costs of remediation (for example, decontamination) are involved;
  • sites which are narrow strips of land that have no other use or value; and
  • the sale of a lease which contains a clause allowing the purchaser to buy the freehold for £1 after a set period or once certain conditions have been met

Of the 176 sites disposed of for £1 or less, 160 were owned by Homes England. Homes England inherited a number of sites from predecessor organisations which were not viable for development. Disposing of these is helping to reduce the liability of holding costs for Government.

Departments disposing of surplus land must do so in line with Managing Public Money and wider disposals guidance. They should get a Market Valuation, and are restricted from selling at lower value than a site is worth.

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