A “COORDINATED national effort” and new legislation is needed to help bring more than 11,000 hectares of derelict and vacant land back into use and to prevent other sites being abandoned.

That is the view of the task-force set up by the Scottish Land Commission and Scottish Environment Protection Agency last year to identify the causes and consequences of long-term land vacancy, with the aim of halving the amount of derelict land by 2025.

The Vacant and Derelict Land Task-force has warned of the issues around unlocking a core of persistent, so-called “stuck sites” – usually older, larger or derelict sites – some of which have been on the vacant and derelict land register for decades, with the majority in either current or former public sector ownership.

In a plan of action, it says it wants the bringing forward of legislation to give planning authorities the power to require vacant or derelict land to be sold by public auction through a compulsory sales order (CSO).

It wants the public and private sector to sign up to a voluntary code which would involve being transparent about ownership, and having a plan of action for plots they no longer have use for, to prevent further sites being abandoned. 

It says a reform of the vacant and derelict sites register was an “urgent priority” so that “persistent and problematic sites” can be better pinpointed, saying that many of the plots should not be on the register and some may not be priorities for public investment.

And it wants government agencies to prioritise persistent and problematic sites with productive potential for funding and investment decisions.

The task-force has issued a challenge to help tackle the issue.

Hamish Trench, Scottish Land Commission’s chief executive, said: “Scotland has a legacy of ‘stuck sites’ with a majority in either current or former public sector ownership. We need to work together to put procedures in place to ensure that this legacy doesn’t continue.

“Transforming vacant and derelict sites opens up opportunities to promote inclusive growth and greater well-being while tackling climate change. 

“What’s clear is that this needs a national co-ordination to create the focus and changes needed. 

“Our Statement of Intent sets out the actions that both Government and other partners can take as a co-ordinated national effort.”

The task-force says that the legacy of Scotland’s industrial past means almost one in three Scots currently lives within 550 yards of a derelict site and that rises to 58% in deprived communities.

The Land Commission, the non-departmental public body tasked with reviewing land reform, says the transformation of these unloved urban spaces would help unlock growth, revive communities, address climate change, increase community empowerment and reduce inequality.

The 3.7 hectare former textiles works at Broadford in Aberdeen is one of the areas which has been derelict for more than a decade. After several incidents of fire-raising, Prince Charles supported calls for it to be regenerated several years ago.

Govan Graving Docks, built in 1869 by the Clyde Navigation Trust, is another example that has lain derelict since the 1980s.

Although the total amount of derelict land has remained broadly unchanged, significant parcels of land have been brought back into use.

The task-force has come up with ideas for making use of the derelict land, equivalent to twice the size of Dundee or over 9,000 football pitches, including using sites to build new homes to limit urban sprawl and reduce commuting.

The task-force believes the land could also be used to provide new allotments and city farms for fresh food and create new parks and green space.
The land could be used for new business, creating jobs and wealth in parts of the country that need it most.

The plots could also be employed for the generation of renewable energy.
The taskforce suggests that the collective impact of reusing small sites “could be huge” and says communities could play a big role in realising this potential.

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “Too much land in Scotland is currently unused. The Scottish Government recognises the huge opportunity that represents, and it’s our priority to ensure that as much of this land as possible is unlocked – acting as a catalyst for community and environmental regeneration. The Task-force was created to help realise that ambition and I welcome their report, which sets out in clear detail what must be done in order to make long term, sustainable change.”