Right to Contest

You can use Right to Contest to challenge government to sell land or property if you believe it’s not needed and could be put to better economic use.


Independent estimates suggest that the public sector holds around 40% of developable sites and around 27% of brownfield land suitable for housing. Selling central and local government land or property that we don’t need will help to free up sites to boost local growth and help us to work more efficiently.

Anyone can use Right to Contest, including businesses, local authorities or members of the public, to challenge the government about a site, as long as they believe that all the following apply.

Land owned by a central government department or one of their arms’ length bodies

The site:

  • is potentially surplus or redundant
  • could be put to better economic use, eg for housing or to help businesses develop or expand

Please note that you can use the Right to Contest to challenge central government sites which are in use, as long as you think that operations could be moved to a different location.

Land owned by a local authority or certain other public bodies

  • the site is empty or under-used
  • there are no plans to bring it back into use

Download details of other public bodies covered here (PDF, 19KB)

How to use Right to Contest

Fill in the application form or email to request a form to be sent by post.

Right to Contest application form

This file is in an OpenDocument format

You can also write to the Government Property Unit if you have any questions:

Government Property Unit
3rd floor, Cabinet Office
1 Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ

The application process

When we receive your application we will first confirm with the relevant department, arms length body or local authority that they own the land or property in question. We will then ask them if they agree to sell the site or to make a case for why they need to keep it.

Land owned by a central government department or one of their arms’ length bodies

Where a department agrees to sell, the case is closed. If the department sets out its reasons to keep a site, the government will consider both sides. Ministers will then reach a decision on the best course of action, based on the criteria below.

We expect to determine most simple cases within 6 weeks. If cases take longer, we will keep you up to date on progress.

Land owned by a local authority or certain other public bodies

These cases will be considered by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The decision will be made on the basis of whether the land or property is in use or whether it is likely to be used in a suitable period of time. These cases will be subject to a fuller process which may take longer to conclude.

Reasons departments can give for not selling

Departments can give the following arguments in support of keeping the site:

  • the site is vital for operational purposes
  • other considerations outweigh the potential better economic use

Most arms’ length bodies will be included. A small number may be excluded, eg where departments don’t have sufficient powers to direct bodies to sell sites.

How to find out who owns the land or property

If you’re not sure who owns the land or property, you may be able to find out by:

Published 8 January 2014