Changes to the planning policy to allow Welsh councils to compulsory purchase empty houses and vacant land have been announced by the Minister for Housing and Local Government.
Following a consultation, the new rules will strength powers allowing councils to compulsory purchase vacant land and redundant buildings in Wales in order to bring them back into use, when it is in the public interest to do so.
The Minister also launched a new consultation on further reforms to streamline and modernise compulsory purchase procedures to support recovery from the pandemic and bring forward land to increase the supply of affordable housing; a key priority for the Welsh Government.
As Wales starts to recover from the pandemic, a number of priority areas including sustainable development, house building and town centre regeneration, have been identified. The changes to streamline the compulsory purchase process support the recommendation from the Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply and improve the Empty Dwelling Management Orders. This will ensure effective action in these key areas can continue. With an estimate of 30,000 empty homes in Wales, the vacant land can be regenerated to increase housing supply and bring empty commercial and other properties back into use, helping to create new job opportunities in local communities.
Tackling the problem of empty properties and bringing them back into use has been a key area of work within the £90m Transforming Towns programme. In March £15.2 million was allocated to tackle 66 of the worst empty properties across Wales and bring them back into use. Welsh Government is also providing an extensive programme of support which includes upskilling local authorities on how to use their powers to their full potential.
The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said:
“In towns and villages across Wales, we see empty homes, former commercial properties and vacant land - which can often be a huge blight on local communities. Improving the delivery of homes in the right locations through the planning system is critical and we are determined to do everything we can to help build the homes people want, and help create jobs closer to people’s homes.
The Welsh Government has put placemaking at the heart of the planning system in Wales and believes compulsory purchase powers are an important action tool which can help support local authorities and communities recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Used properly, compulsory purchase powers can contribute towards effective and efficient regeneration, the revitalisation of communities, placemaking, and the promotion of business, leading to improvements in quality of life.
These changes to planning policy will not only make the process fairer, more efficient and understandable, but remove barriers and help local councils and public bodies to implement positive changes in their communities.”