Online tool reveals locations of government land and buildings, encourages public to challenge use

Out-Law News | 20 Aug 2014 | 4:23 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has launched an online tool allowing members of the public to search the government's property portfolio and encouraging them to apply for the release of underused land and buildings for reuse and redevelopment.

The Government Property Finder website, launched today, maps all centrally owned land and buildings, enabling members of the public to search for the locations and details of 31,015 government assets. The tool allows searches to be performed by location or by the government department owning the land, and also reveals which assets have already been earmarked by the government for sale or let.

The government introduced a 'Right to Contest' in January, allowing communities and businesses to challenge the use of land and property owned by central government and ask that it be released if they think they can make better use of it. According to a Cabinet Office statement, "the government aims to sell property it no longer uses and get out of expensive rentals" and it is hoped that, in combination with the 'Right to Contest', "this online tool will mean that many government properties across the country can be put to the best possible use".

Sites already earmarked for sale include the Grade II-listed Old War Office building in Westminster. According to the property description provided on the website, "the building represents a trophy asset, a unique opportunity to capture the imagination of developers from the residential and commercial markets around the world. Potential uses for the building following redevelopment include hotel and residential."

Also among the sites listed for sale are 166 hectares of Ministry of Defence land in Aldershot, at which developer Grainger has outline permission for a 4,000-home urban extension, and the 15 ha National Institute for Medical Research in London's Mill Hill.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said in a statement: "Since the 2010 election we have got out of 1,250 properties, but we need to do more. We want the public to use this map and the Right to Contest to challenge us to release properties we are not using efficiently enough to cut the deficit, support growth and provide more houses."