Britons Get Right to Demand Sale of Government Land and Property

The public in the U.K. will be able to apply for government land and property to be released for sale starting today, with profits going toward paying off the budget deficit.

Under a new “right to contest,” individuals and businesses can challenge the use of central-government land and property, both vacant and occupied, when previously only local-authority assets that were empty or under-used were eligible, the Treasury said in an e-mailed statement.

“We certainly should not act as some kind of compulsive hoarder of land and property that could be better used for things like housing and local economic growth,” Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said in the statement. Government sites that could be put to better economic use may be sold “back to the community and local businesses at a fair price.”

While the government and the Bank of England have introduced measures to make mortgages more widely available, a shortage of housing in the U.K. has helped drive up property prices, leaving many unable to afford to buy a home. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said earlier this week that while the U.K. economy is “on the rise,” the country still faces some “hard truths” and his commitment to reducing the deficit will continue.

The government owns more than 330 billion pounds ($540 billion) of land and property, the Treasury said.

Applications will go before a committee that will include ministers from the Treasury, Cabinet Office and the land-holding department. The Department for Communities and Local Government will still receive applications challenging local authorities’ use of land and property, according to the statement.

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