Local authorities, the MOD, government departments have been selling off oodles of property in recent years in a bid to balance our collective books.
Good news for anyone wanting to pick up cheap property for redevelopment, albeit it most of the sell-off is likely to be to the benefit of remote developers rather than local communities.
Here is the (updated 2019) links list:
1. Firstly (and many thanks to Wreck reader Tina for this tip-off) the government has launched a government property search tool. Currently in beta and mostly seems to be bringing up local authority sell-offs at present, but a brilliant tool for anyone looking to see what might be available in a particular location. Try it here.
There's a similar tool for government properties available to let here.
And a nice-looking tool (maps ad everything...) specifically for selling off all those "surplus" courts and tribunal buildings in the UK - here.
2. MOD properties. Basically, property sales used to be handled by Defence Estates, who produced a basic list. Reorganisation put Defence Estates into the pan-departmental Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and it's got much, much harder to find out what is, or is about to be, on the market. Information should be listed here - in the Disposals database - but it hasn't been updated.
3. UK-wide auctions/repossession listings - Essential Information Group
4. Local authority property for sale. This varies from local authority. Some, like Cornwall Council, publish lists of property for sale online. However, mostly you have to contact a particular council's Estates Management team which is responsible for the disposal of land of property, including farms in rural areas. But my suggestion would be that you first try the beta search tool, mentioned at 1, to see if anything comes up in your area.
5. Similarly, property for sale by utility companies may be listed on the company's own website, but most are put up for sale or auction through preferred estate agents (eg South West Water). You basically need to find the right links and keep checking. This link (also sent by Tina) goes to a helpful list of which water company covers which areas.
The National Grid's property for sale list still exists, but the Coal Board (as it was) has been swallowed up by a new government department and no longer holds a list.
The Canal & River Trust (used to be British Waterways, relaunched 2012). The charity has its own property team who can give information and advice about empty waterside properties that may be available. The Trust's public notices page mostly lists boring legal notices but land and sale notices are sometimes included.
7. If woodland rather than waterside is more your thing, here's the information page on Forestry Commission property for sale in Scotland. In England and Wales things have been rearranged and it's now pretty impossible to find out what land may be for sale - presumably sales are no longer being handled by the forestry guardians.
8. Guidance on buying empty homes - The Empty Homes charity and in Scotland, Rural Housing Scotland is similarly campaigning for and helping people to live in depopluated rural areas.
SPAB - the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has lots of information on renovating older properties.
9. And, not exactly public property, but the Church of England publishes an online list of closed churches available for disposal - Closed churches and the Church of Scotland lists churches and other church property for sale on this website.