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Government launches brownfield registers

Words: Laura Edgar
Brownfield land

Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell has announced that local authorities across England will now have to produce and maintain up-to-date registers listing all brownfield sites available for housing.

The registers will be available to the public and the aim of them is to help house builders identify suitable brownfield sites for development.

They will allow local communities to highlight local derelict or underused building sites that are primed for development.

Barwell said reusing brownfield land is “crucial” to building more homes.

“We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we reuse brownfield land is crucial. We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside.”

These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this.

Brownfield registers were first piloted in 2016, when 73 local planning authorities across the country pioneered the measures.

At the time the government said the councils taking part in the pilots would inform future government policy and guidance on the operation of brownfield registers.

In addition, the £3 billion Home Builders Fund, announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2016, will be used to support the development of brownfield sites.

Permission in principle will be used to gain planning permission through these registers. The government said this would give developers more certainty over whether a site is suitable for development.

Further legislation is expected later this year on extending permission in principle more widely through the planning system.

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at commercial property and planning consultancy Rapleys, noted that the announcement is light on detail, but the attempt to streamline development of brownfield land is welcome progress.

He said together the two mechanisms have the potential to “lower the initial hurdle” of bringing forward development through the planning system, which “has to be supported”.

“The owners, particularly of small and medium-sized sites, would no doubt be pleased with a relatively simple method of getting on the planning ladder, and provide them with early confidence to further investigate the potential of their land.  

“Of course,” said Lowes, “the success of this venture very much depends on local authorities’ ability to keep the register up to date and implement the new permission in principle regulations. This has the potential to be a real administrative challenge and will require careful management to ensure the opportunity to increase the delivery of housing isn’t missed.”

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