My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I have today issued revised and expanded guidance to BRB (Residuary) Ltd (BRBR) on the procedures that should follow prior to disposing of its non-operational estate.
Historically, the company has been required to make an assessment as to whether a property is likely to be needed for a rail, other transport or brownfield development use in the future. Part of this assessment has involved consulting parties in the rail industry, local transport and planning authorities and other potentially interested parties. The new guidance that I have issued today makes it clear that these arrangements will continue. In addition, it now sets out in clear terms what we expect to happen as and when a consultee identifies such a use for the site in question. Specifically, the company is now expected to ensure that the body that has expressed an interest in the site should take on the holding costs as soon as possible and acquire the site at market value, within a reasonable timeframe. The new guidance makes it clear that in the majority of cases a period of six months represents a reasonable timeframe for interested parties to acquire a site.
This new guidance will ensure that the company continues to facilitate and encourage transport and brownfield development projects and that the promoters of such schemes have ample opportunity to purchase sites. It will also ensure that sites can be released on the open market for development in a reasonable timeframe where no realistic transport or brownfield development opportunities can be identified.
In the case of surplus BRBR land, which is not needed for a future transport use, BRBR and English Partnerships will be working closely together with a view to that surplus land being released for housing development, which is a key government priority. A substantial number of BRBR sites have been identified for joint assessment with English Partnerships for housing development and a similar approach is being adopted in relation to Department for Transport agencies, such as the Highways Agency.
Copies of the revised guidance have been placed in the Libraries of the House. A copy is also available on BRBR’s website at www.brbr.gov.uk.