Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
236. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the actions he plans to deal with the serious problem of land hoarding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39060/21]
The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced the vacant site levy, which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant, under-utilised sites in urban areas. The Act provides that the levy shall apply to vacant sites exceeding 0.05 hectares on residential land or regeneration land, as designated in local development plans, which meets the relevant criteria set out in the Act. Under the Act, planning authorities were empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market valuation of relevant properties which were listed on local authority vacant site registers in 2018, which relevant owners were liable to pay in January 2019. The levy rate has since been increased to 7% for sites on local authority vacant site registers from 2019 onwards.
All levies due on an individual site remain a charge on the land concerned until all outstanding levies due are paid. Accordingly, under the vacant site levy provisions, there will be a cumulative effect associated with not activating a site for development purposes for each year that a site remains vacant or idle.
Furthermore, the Derelict Sites Act 1990 imposes a general duty on every owner and occupier of land to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. The Act also imposes a duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site.
The Derelict Sites Act 1990 confers significant powers upon local authorities, including requiring owners or occupiers to take appropriate measures on derelict sites, acquiring derelict sites by agreement, or compulsorily, and applying a derelict sites levy on derelict sites. It is a matter for local authorities to determine the most appropriate use of the legislation within their respective functional areas.
Under the Act, local authorities are required to maintain a derelict sites register, which includes the name and address of each owner and occupier, where these can be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, of any land which, in the opinion of the local authority, is a derelict site. Under section 8(5) of the Act, a copy of the derelict sites register for any local authority can be inspected at the offices of that authority during office hours. Members of the public can engage with their local authority in relation to addressing individual derelict sites in their local areas.
Under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, the derelict site levy was also increased from 3% to 7% of the market valuation of relevant sites with effect from January 2020. This levy is applied annually for as long as relevant sites remain derelict. The changes in the rate of the derelict site and vacant site levies is intended to ensure that the levies have more meaningful impact and that the powers of local authorities in tackling dereliction and vacancy are strengthened for the purpose of bringing relevant sites into productive use, thereby facilitating urban regeneration and development in designated areas while also combatting land hoarding.
I continue to keep the relevant provisions under review.