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Time for action on making use of our land

Hamish Trench

Chief Executive Hamish Trench talks about the recent work done by the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce.

Policy, funding and regulations all need to be joined up – at a national level across Scotland – if we want to tackle the persistent challenge of vacant and derelict land, to bring it back into productive use.

While local initiatives are to be welcomed, the scale of the task is such that we need a national, coordinated approach where priorities for action, finance and support is all aligned.

This week Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce published a Statement of Intent that challenges all sectors in Scotland to play their part . This includes using the rich data Scotland has about vacant and derelict sites to promote opportunities for re- use of land and learning – through demonstration – what changes are needed in our regulatory, policy and finance systems to deliver change. Importantly also, we need to embed an
ethos of social responsibility into our corporate culture, to prevent future sites being abandoned.

The Statement of Intent has been informed by a report and analysis of the different types of sites on the vacant and derelict land register and the challenges of bringing them back into use. Our report highlights some recent – inspiring – examples of derelict and vacant land being regenerated and shows how local authorities and other public agencies have helped drive these projects forward.

We’ve also sought to understand the factors behind a core of so- called “stuck sites” – usually older , larger and derelict sites, some of which have been on the register for decades with a majority in either current or former public sector ownership.

According to the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2017, at least 60 per cent of sites and 66 per cent of vacant or derelict land on the register , is in current or former public sector (now privatised) ownership. It is these “persistently problematic” sites that we most want to tackle could be used to build new homes to limit urban sprawl, provide new allotments and city farms, create new parks and green spaces and generate renewable energy. There’s a real risk if we carry on “business as usual” of further sites being abandoned, in the future.

A key aim of the Taskforce going forward will be to embed a responsible approach to land reuse in corporate culture, so that it ’s increasingly seen as unacceptable to leave land and buildings vacant . We’re determined to promote action.

This means that relevant policies, regulations and funding opportunities must all be joined up, to unlock the opportunity that this unused land represents. And communities must be at the heart of land re- use, through community- led regeneration. This needs a national effort – by Government and other partners – to create the focus so that we make more of Scot land’s land, for more people.