English Partnerships has bought the Millbay Docks site in Plymouth, Devon, from Associated British Ports.
The two will work in partnership with the South West Regional Development Agency to regenerate the site. The agency is putting together a framework for project. The client will be a special purpose vehicle, set up in partnership with the private sector.

The purchase is the first move in EP's campaign to realise the commercial possibilities of public sector property. The policy was announced at the launch of deputy prime minister John Prescott's communities plan last month.

The regeneration body will work with more than 200 public sector organisations to produce a register of surplus public sector assets.

It has teamed up with Rail Property to look at how public sector rail land can be redeveloped, and is in talks with the NHS about how its surplus estate could be used.

John Lewis, EP's projects director, said nobody knew how much surplus land in Britain was owned by the public sector, or where it was located.

He said: "We want to look at the objectives of the public first. Best value should not necessarily mean selling land to the highest bidder. This view is strongly supported by central government, and especially by Prescott."