Five surprising facts about UK land usage

September 21, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Five surprising facts about UK land usage

“Land,” Winston Churchill observed in 1909, “is a necessity of human existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position – land, I say, differs from all other forms of property, and the immemorial customs of nearly every modern state have placed the tenure, transfer, and obligations of land in a wholly different category from other classes of property.”

Sound familiar? Land has been a contentious issue for centuries. Churchill concluded, “All goes back to the land, and the land owner is able to absorb to himself a share of almost every public and every private benefit, however important or however pitiful those benefits may be.”

However, he made it clear he was attacking the system, no individual landowners. The system remains in place today, and is just as divisive as ever. This is partly because few people understand how land is really used.

Surprising facts about the amount of UK land that is taken for housing have been revealed in the NHBC Foundation’s new guide, 40 facts: homes, housing and housebuilding today.

Although having one of the highest population densities in Europe, the amount of land taken up by homes and gardens across the UK is a little over 5%. That’s just 12,700km2 of land used for residential development out of the total 244,000km2 which makes up the UK.

We are also seeing encouraging signs that measures designed to protect our green and pleasant land are proving effective. In 2016/17, 56% of all new homes in England were built on previously developed ‘brownfield’ land.

Five key facts about UK land usage

  1. 1% – the proportion of the UK’s land used for homes and gardens
  2. 56% – the proportion of new homes in England built on brownfield land in 2016/17
  3. 40%- the percentage of land in England where development is restricted
  4. 8% – the percentage of the UK population defined as ‘urban dwellers’ living in either urban or suburban areas
  5. 60,000– number of planning approvals in 2017 for homes in both London and the South East, far exceeding approvals in other regions of the UK

Five areas are covered in the guide, which looks at the type of homes built, who we build them for and where we build them. The contribution of housing and housebuilding to the economy is also explored, along with how the age and condition of a home can affect the health of those living in them.

Commenting on 40 facts: homes, housing and house building today, NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said, “The guide is a useful single source of key housing statistics which also provides the narrative behind the figures, giving readers a clear picture of the UK housing market.

“It shows an industry which is at the heart of the UK economy and at the centre of change as demographic forces challenge us to design and deliver the right types of homes for the future.”

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