Councils overlook smaller brownfield sites

Brownfield Land Registers are failing to record the small brownfield plots that could provide space for an extra 188,734 homes across England, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has found. A more proactive process and access to Land Registry data could help build homes without wasting precious countryside.

Every local planning authority is due to publish an accurate and up-to-date register of brownfield sites that are available and suitable for development  by 31 December 2017, which will be used by developers and community groups looking to find land on which to build homes. In his autumn budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond set out a proposal that 20% of new homes be built on small sites so ‘that brownfield and urban land be used as efficiently as possible for housing development’.

But CPRE says the Government needs to amend brownfield policy and guidance to encourage the identification of the full range of appropriate brownfield sites for housing if that aim is to be met.

An initial audit of already submitted brownfield land registers by CPRE shows that less than 4% of current registered brownfield land is on small sites of up to 10 homes. If councils are to meet the Chancellor’s 20% small site target on brownfield, an additional 188,734 homes across England could be unlocked.

CPRE also commissioned Unlocking Potential, research investigating how local authorities are identifying brownfield sites for the new registers. They found that local authorities routinely disregard small brownfield sites, despite the fact that these usually have existing infrastructure, such as good rail and road links, access to local amenities and proximity to existing communities. They are particularly valuable in rural areas, such as in villages and market towns, where much needed development can be provided without encroaching on the surrounding countryside.

Reasons given for not including these sites include: lack of local authority resources to identify small brownfield sites; perception among builders that the planning system is too burdensome and complex when considering small sites; and lack of transparency in the way that land data is collected, which discourages participation from different sectors, including the local community.

Rebecca Pullinger, CPRE’s Planning Campaigner said, “Up and down the country tens of thousands of small brownfield sites are not included in Brownfield Land Registers and their housing development potential missed. The current system of collecting this data must be improved if we are to unlock the potential of brownfield, and stop developers finding an excuse to build on greenfield areas.”

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