New power could tackle blight of abandoned buildings in Scotland

The former Big Bar in Bainsford, Falkirk, is one of a number of buildings to have lain empty for several years. Picture: Michael Gillen
The former Big Bar in Bainsford, Falkirk, is one of a number of buildings to have lain empty for several years. Picture: Michael Gillen
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The blight of abandoned buildings and parcels of derelict land in town centres and communities across Scotland could be tackled by a new power, a report by the Scottish Land Commission has said.

A proposed Compulsory Sales Order (CSO) would provide planning authorities with a straightforward mechanism to bring buildings that have been unoccupied or derelict for an undue period of time back into productive use.

Scottish Government data suggests there is around 11,600 hectares of vacant or derelict land in Scotland – an area twice the size of the City of Dundee.

This commission said this was an “entrenched problem” as the headline figures have not changed substantially since the late 1990s.

In addition, Shelter Scotland claim there are more than 37,000 long-term empty homes in the country.

READ MORE: Councils ‘must do more’ to reduce number of empty homes in Scotland

“Such sites often act as magnets for crime and anti-social behaviour,” said the commission’s Professor David Adams.

“This damages quality of life for existing residents and can act as a deterrent for inward investment, making it more difficult to bring about long-term regeneration and renewal.”

local authorities already have a number of policy instruments – including compulsory purchase orders – that can be used to help regeneration.

But the commission found these policies requirde a clear plan in place as to how the land or building in question would be used.

In many cases, public authorities and communities do not have a specific end use in mind for problematic sites but simply wish to see them used for some productive purpose.

Prof Adams added: “CSOs could be part of a tool kit to bring unused land – especially small parcels of land that have lain unused and unloved, in our city and town centres – back in to productive use.

“We envisage it being used as a power of last resort - councils and land owners should be working together to try and find solutions first.”