The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has welcomed the government’s new ‘Right to Renerate’ plans for turning derelict buildings into homes, businesses or community facilities, but with caveats.
Under the new plans, councils and other public sector bodies will be required to sell off empty property and spare land, with the public having the first right of refusal to buy underused land.
The stated aim is to make it quicker and easier to convert available land and buildings. This may increase demand for themed architecture as some novel community uses are devised for spaces or buildings, but the plans are still being treated with caution.
RIBA president Alan Jones said the notion of reviving “unloved buildings” might appear to be an “easy win,” to accelerate the development of new housing, but he said the procurement process and the criteria involved “must be carefully considered”.
He added: “This policy has the potential to help regenerate local areas, but this must be done with the highest regard to quality, safety and sustainability.”
While RIBA is seeking assurances about details of the plans, the general welcome may be echoed across the architecture sector and also among housebuilders and those seeking to develop commercial and community properties, including new bars and restaurants.
The new legislation will replace the present Right to Contest powers that were introduced in 1980 and extended in 2011 and 2014.
However, since 2014 only 192 requests have been made for land or buildings to be re-used, just one was granted. This was usually due to the landowner having plans for the site.
A prominent case of a building remaining empty was that of the London Road Fire Station in central Manchester, which was bought by Britannia Hotels in the 1980s but never redeveloped.
The City Council needed several attempts over a period of more than 20 years to acquire the building. which is now being redeveloped by Allied London as a mixed-use facility, including workplaces, a bar and flats.