The number of brownfield sites available for development around the country increased by 10per cent in the last year, research shows, with the amount of brownfield land available in London providing enough space for 355,000 new homes.
Using brownfield – land and property that has been built on previously – is claimed by the Conservative government, and Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp, to be the preferred option, instead of building on previously undeveloped, greenfield sites.
Yet the research conducted on behalf new-build platform on behalf of new-build platform Unlatch shows that there is sufficient brownfield land to create £463billion-worth of homes.
Lying Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Levelling Up secretary, Michael Gove, have spoken about plans to use more of the country’s brownfield land. Johnson said, “We are going to put more publicly owned brownfield land to use and seek to unlock small sites that are ideal for the kind of unobtrusive development that communities welcome.”
The use of the words “unlock small sites” in Johnson’s quote ought to ring alarm bells for anyone in Croydon, as it is the kind of approach which was pursued at such massive expense by Paul Scott, Jo Negrini and Colm Lacey in the disastrous housing misadventure called Brick by Brick, which ultimately bankrupted the borough.
Unlocking “small sites” can be difficult and costly; there’s often good reason why commercial developers opt to pass on such “opportunities”. And it can also mean that existing residents might see their amenity spaces – a patch of grass here, children’s playgrounds, old garages, used as part of the development site.
According to Unlatch’s research, London is the location of the most available brownfield land, with space for 355,644 new homes. “With the average London new-build valued at £565,192 in the current market, there is the potential to add £200billion worth of housing to the capital’s housing market,” Unlatch reckons.
“Brownfield sites are the ideal place to build new homes. Unlike Green Belt land, brown sites do nothing to detract from the nation’s natural beauty or open spaces,” Unlatch’s Lee Martin said.
“It’s little surprise, therefore, to see the government leaning heavily on these sites for their levelling up plans, but it doesn’t seem that they’ve yet put their plans into action because the amount of available brownfield land has actually increased.
“We have to hope that the government follows through on its pledge to utilise this land and deliver the affordable homes that so many people need. Not only will it deliver much-needed homes, but it will also bring a huge boost to the housing market, and therefore the economy, by hundreds of billions of pounds.”
In the end, however, it will take significant political will to ensure that any homes built are indeed truly “affordable”, with huge volumes of housing needed for social rent, while requiring some new guarantees that such properties are not quickly sold off at massive publicly-funded discounts.
Read more: Brick by Brick abandons its planning consents and 23 sites
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Read more: Conflicts of interest, incomplete contracts, unlawful payments
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Satellite imaging of the UK shows that less than 10% of it is built on. When asked people estimate it to be around 40%, way off the mark.
We have the land available to build whole new towns, and hopefully in an intelligent way so that they are connected to transport links and have the schools and doctors, etc needed.
Building on brownfield sites supposedly saves the nation’s natural beauty – well there’s tonnes of the stuff, and it won’t be beautiful living in over crowded towns and cities where population has increased so much that finding a school, doctor, dentist will be near on impossible and traffic congestion just gets worse.
I also like the idea of new towns, and agree with you. But how do you make them desireable and diverse, without becoming ghettos? Should they be built to be used just by cars? Will they be well served by infrastructure like public transport and local shops? (As well as schools, doctors, dentists!). It’s the kind of thing that needs government support, not something that I think the private sector can just sort out. Conversely, these brownfield site seem to be ‘low hanging fruit’.
It is important to remember that some brownfield land has lain derelict for years,and now provides an endangered refuge for flora and fauna– from butterflies and bees, to lizards, slow worms, badgers and bats– and a host of bird species, insects, and plants, many rare, such as the native UK orchids, and a host of grasses and wild flowers.
I don’t think that current UK planning allows s for decision making that would allow part of a brownfield site to be redeveloped, leaving another part wild.
Even where it does, “wilderness” actually needs to be managed, otherwise it soon becomes scrub, and then, eventually woodland.
A recipe for a wildlife-rich urban habitat might read “Take one ex-British Rail railway sidings — add 15 years…… result – birch and oak forest !
Local government finance is insufficient for managing such rich, but chancely rich, habitats.to keep them as flower-rich grassland with lumps of concrete.
There are a few organisations –the National Trust , RSPB, Woodland Trist, and Wildlife Trusts who have the expertise to manage their own lands, for conservation, but people in general, and organisations, seldom understand or have the skills and people/ machinery resources that are needed to keep the richness of dereliction !
Love your neighbourhood brown field site– it really might be very green !
And it might be going soon, so if you like it, act now, and get someone like the London Wildife Trust to come and evaluate it. Then tell the council and neighbours.