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Brownfield land has space for one million homes, says CPRE

Words: Laura Edgar

The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) report From Wasted Space to Living Spaces, published this week, suggests that England has the brownfield capacity to build a million homes.

The research, conducted for the CPRE by the University of the West of England, concludes that a minimum of 976,000 could be built on brownfield land, but that this is an underestimate as it only takes into account land that is derelict (potentially more than 550,000 homes) or with planning permission (more than 400,000). It does not include underused land or new brownfield land that might become available.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE, said: “This research demonstrates the huge existing capacity for housing on brownfield land. At a time when there is great pressure on our green spaces, utilising this land through a brownfield first policy would protect our countryside and regenerate urban areas.”

Speaking at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Annual Conference ‘Building The Future’, Sir Michael Lyons said making more land available is the headline issue. He agreed that there are many brownfield opportunities that should be taken up and that where possible, they should be prioritised. However, referring to The Lyons Housing Review launched last month by Labour leader Ed Miliband, he said: “Even if all of those sites can be developed, are all in the right places, are all in the right ownership, a million homes is simply not enough.”

But the figures have, according to planning consultant Turley, been over-inflated. The company has said that although brownfield land can make a contribution to the UK housing needs it is “dangerous to assume” that all previously developed land (PDL) is suitable for development.

Turley has highlighted that the report itself admits that under half of PDL is suitable for housing. Some are referred to as ‘hardcore’ sites, making them difficult to develop on.

Jeff Richards, a director at Turley, said: “The claim that there is capacity for at least one million new homes on brownfield fails to account for the fact that under half of PDL is suitable for housing.”

Turley does say that many of CPRE’s suggestions are fine, but that the introduction of a ‘brownfield first’ policy is likely to cause housing development to stagnate as a result of a variety of barriers to developing it.

“To deliver anywhere near the number of homes we need to meet the UK housing crisis there is a continued need for both brownfield and greenfield development," added Richards.

Image courtesy of Roger Smith