The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) recently announced a new 'Right to Regenerate' consultation which will allow the public to require councils and the public sector to sell unused land and assets. The government's aim is to make it simpler, quicker and easier for the public to transform vacant land and derelict buildings into homes, business and community spaces.

Current scheme – 'Right to Contest'

The new 'Right to Regenerate' aims to relaunch the current 'Right to Contest', a scheme which allows the public to apply to the government to sell land or property that is under-used or could be put to better economic use. Since 2014 only 192 requests have been made under the 'Right to Contest' and the majority have been respect of small plots of land. Under the current scheme, those who request the sale of public land are not given the right of first refusal before the land is placed on the open market. MHCLG has pointed to this as one of the main reasons the public and other organisations are discouraged from using the 'Right to Contest'.

Proposed new scheme

Under the proposed 'Right to Regenerate', the public would have new powers to submit requests to councils and the public sector, forcing 'unused' public land to be sold to individuals or communities by default, unless there is a compelling reason not to. Public bodies would need to have clear plans for the land in the near future, even if only a temporary use prior to development, otherwise they would be required to sell.  The new scheme also proposes to introduce a right of first refusal before the land goes onto the open market, which MHCLG believes will incentivise the public to make use of the 'Right to Regenerate'.  

The new right builds on the government's drive to encourage development of brownfield land and make it easier to challenge councils and other public organisations to release land for redevelopment. The 'Right to Regenerate' will also apply to unused publically owned social housing and garages, providing an opportunity to develop and transform local housing stock.

What does this mean in practice?

In practice, a member of the public with a plot of land owned by the council at the back of their house would be able to use the 'Right to Regenerate' if the land was determined to be unused or underused with no plans to bring it into use. The council would have to sell the land and the person making the request could have first right of refusal to purchase – enabling them to extend their garden or sell the land on to a developer.


The MCHLG has published a consultation seeking views on the new 'Right to Regenerate'. The consultation seeks views on the following:

  • Definition of land that is 'unused' or 'underused' that is to be published to help guide people in making applications.
  • The range of public bodies covered under the new right to include town and parish councils.
  • Potential to have a right of first refusal for the person making the initial request before the property goes onto the open market.
  • Whether the government should impose conditions on the disposal of land and, if so, what conditions would be appropriate.

The consultation is now open* and closes on 13 March 2021.

Originally Published by Blaser Mills, February 2021

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