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Research: Shovel-ready brownfield land could house thousands

Words: Laura Edgar
Brownfield land is shovel-ready / iStock-147696086

There is enough suitable brownfield land to deliver thousands of new homes and make an immediate contribution towards meeting housing need.

Council brownfield registers have the potential to accommodate a million new homes, new analysis has suggested. Two-thirds of these sites are shovel-ready, says the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which conducted the study.

The campaign group argues that prioritising this land would not only prevent the loss of green space and the countryside, but would help to regenerate run-down areas and provide more homes. Developing brownfield land would to continue to provide “a steady pipeline” of housing, with enough land added to the registers in the past year to deliver more than 120,000 homes.

However, CPRE is concerned that the definition of previously developed land set out in the registers means that a large number of sites are currently being missed, and therefore the full potential of the registers is not being met. Furthermore, the density assumptions for brownfield land are low; increasing the density would allow councils to make the best use of the space.

For example, CPRE London found that the borough of Enfield has enough brownfield land for 37,000 homes, but the council has identified land for just 2,170 in its most recent register, published in 2017.

Many areas, though, have a large amount of brownfield land ready for development: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified enough brownfield land for nearly 500,000 homes.

Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at the CPRE, said: “Building on brownfield land presents a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration. It will help to limit the amount of countryside lost to development, and build more homes in areas where people want to live, with infrastructure, amenities and services already in place.”

Despite councils having identified brownfield land for more that one million homes, Pullinger explained that until there is a brownfield-first approach to development and all types of brownfield land are considered, a large number of sites would continue to be overlooked.

“The government, local councils and housebuilders must work hard to bring these sites forward for development and get building.”

CPRE wants clearer definitions and guidelines so that the registers act as a “true pipeline” to identify all possible brownfield sites and record suitability for uses other than housing.

State of Brownfield 2019 can be found on the CPRE website.

Image credit | iStock