Kenneth Gibson MSP has welcomed a new report by the Scottish Land Commission (SLC) which outlined proposals for the compulsory sale of sites and buildings left vacant or derelict "for an undue period of time" and which have a detrimental impact on the surrounding community.
The report envisages planning authorities auctioning land and buildings subject to the orders to return them to productive use.
Current powers, including compulsory purchase orders, leave a gap as they require a clear plan in place for use, which the new orders would plug.
Bringing forward the orders within the course of the parliament was an SNP manifesto pledge in 2016 and the Commission has been developing a proposal to form a basis for a consultation by the SNP Government on the orders.
The SLC report foresees the orders applying to small gap sites, derelict commercial buildings and empty homes.
Scotland has around 11,600 hectares of land - twice the size of Dundee - either vacant, derelict or both. In urban areas, almost three quarters of this is privately owned.
The commission's report suggests council officers and councillors should identify potential Compulsory Sale Order (CSO) sites and proposes that community groups are able to ask planning authorities to investigate a site for CSO. As the orders involve the state interfering with a person's private property rights, the report stresses the need for planning authorities to build a strong case and suggests previous enforcement action, reports of nuisance and local campaigns could be used in support.
Further proposals include conditions being attached to sale requiring the new owner to bring the site back into to productive use by a set date and, if there is no improvement, giving the local authority the right to buy the site.
Commissioner David Adams said:
"CSOs could bring unused land back in to productive use. Such sites often act as magnets for crime and anti-social behaviour. 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.”
“The commission envisages the orders being used as a last resort, after councils and land owners have tried to find other solutions.
Kenneth Gibson commented:
“I am wholeheartedly supportive of these proposals and pursued such matters without success during the 1999-2003 Parliament.
“Cities, towns and villages across Scotland are scarred with derelict buildings and land overgrown with weeds that could be brought productive use.
“Whether retained because original proposals for improvement could not be funded or for speculative reasons, such eyesores can be left unkempt for years.
“It is high time that measures are brought into place to address such matters and I am delighted that the SNP Government is looking at this and will act during this 2016-2021 Parliament.”