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17/03/2015

Lack of data collection hinders brownfield development – CPRE

Words: Laura Edgar

Better data collection and community engagement hold the key to advancing housing development on brownfield land, says the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Better Brownfield: Ensuring Responsive Development on Previously Developed Land, the third in a series of eight Housing Foresight papers, follows changes in brownfield policy and funding announced for its development made by the government.

Better Brownfield, the CPRE explained, argues that while political focus on brownfield is welcome, new homes on brownfield land have “often failed to meet the aspirations or needs of communities”.

The paper explains that there is currently no objective for local government to collect information on brownfield sites, which is hindering their redevelopment. Additionally, there is no coherent national strategy for - or national guidance on - data collection regarding brownfield sites.

Brownfield sites are currently considered in isolation because of a lack of a structured approach to data collection, adds Better Brownfield. “This is not promoting development that is meeting the needs of communities in terms of use, design and housing mix.”

Therefore, to boost the provision and quality of brownfield development homes, the paper makes the case for four initiatives:

  1. More cooperation between local and national government on collecting brownfield site information should be fostered, such as the use of a combined index that includes environmental and factors.
  2. Introduction of “a register of suitable small-scale and publicly owned brownfield sites, complemented by stronger incentives for public-private partnership in their development.”
  3. Measures to improve community engagement in planning should be implemented. CPRE cites citizen forums as examples. It also recommends increasing custom and self-build housing on large-scale brownfield sites.
  4. A full reform of housing density measurements should be considered to ensure that new houses are designed for community need.

Report author and policy and research adviser at the CPRE, Luke Burroughs, explained that while the recent focus on brownfield land from the government and the Opposition was welcome, “we must work harder to ensure that we build homes communities really want”.

“To guarantee that ambitious initiatives don’t just improve the quantity of poor quality housing, we have to empower local authorities to play a greater role in leading brownfield development. A more positive approach to design and location can spur the right kind of housing where people want and can afford to live,” said Burroughs.

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