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MPs and Lords to examine role of public property in growth agenda

An influential cross-party group of MPs and Peers has today launched an inquiry into how local authorities can better use their £250bn property assets to unlock development and boost economic growth.

The report Unleashing Growth: How Public Sector Property Can Drive Economic Development will be the first Parliamentary inquiry to examine the barriers to growth that exist at a local level and explore how Local Authorities can use public sector assets more effectively to overcome these barriers.

Chaired by Paul Uppal MP, the All Party Urban Development Group and its inquiry partner – the global professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers – will take written evidence from a range of public and private sector experts over the summer before holding a series of oral evidence sessions in Parliament in the autumn. A report will then be published delivering a series of key recommendations to policy makers.

To launch the inquiry, the APUDG has issued a call for written submissions from property and regeneration experts and public sector stakeholders, with a deadline for submissions of Friday 26 August.

Regeneration is a key driver of economic growth but has all but ground to a halt in many parts of the country due to constraints on public spending and bank lending alike.

However, councils have, or will shortly receive through the Localism Bill and the Government’s wider growth agenda, a range of powers that could enable them to leverage economic growth from public sector assets. The report will examine how far these approaches are being used at present, how effective they have proven, what the barriers are to their wider use, and how these barriers can be overcome.

Key questions to consider:

• Asset-backed vehicles such as LABV have been widely touted as an effective way to combine public sector assets with private sector expertise, yet relatively little use has been made of such vehicles. Why is this? And what are the barriers to their further utilisation?
• What pressures have prevented local authorities from using asset disposals to create the greatest opportunity for regeneration and development?
• How should public assets be used in designated areas such as Enterprise Zones so as to maximise their potential for growth? How could Enterprise Zones be improved to make best use public assets?
• What are the barriers to local authorities making greater use of existing powers – such as Compulsory Purchase Orders, Local Development Orders, master planning and Area Action Plans – to integrate public and private assets to achieve maximum impact?
• What changes to the planning regime would help local authorities to maximise the value of public assets in planning for development?
• To what extent can the private sector encourage and support the public sector to rationalise their use of public property, and release those assets that could make the maximum contribution to regeneration and growth?

Paul Uppal MP, the Chair of the APUDG, said: "Regeneration is a key driver of economic growth but in many parts of the country development is at a standstill. In order to drive growth local authorities will need to make the best use of the powers they have at their disposal and the assets they possess – but this isn’t about telling them to simply sell their land and property to developers."

"To get development moving we must identify what barriers local authorities face, and help both the public and private sector to work more effectively with each other to manage public sector assets, kickstart development and take advantage of the opportunities created by the wider growth agenda."

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