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Enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes, CPRE report reveals

There is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes and over half a million already have planning permission, a new report form CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed.

The figures demonstrate that there is already enough available and suitable land in the planning system to meet the government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes per year for the next 5 years (this Parliament), calling into question the controversial plans to deregulate the planning system that has been proposed by Ministers.

Brownfield land – land that has previously been built on, and now sits derelict or vacant – provides a valuable resource in the protection of greenfield land from development. The State of Brownfield report 2020 is the latest in a series of CPRE reports on the brownfield register, which catalogue the number of brownfield sites available for development. 

The analysis clearly demonstrates that the planning system is not slowing building rates. There is currently planning permission for over half a million (565,564) units on brownfield land. In February 2020, the Local Government Association found that over one million homes in total had been granted planning permission but not yet built. This means that brownfield sites and other unbuilt sites with planning permission could provide over 1.5 million new homes – clearly demonstrating there is already enough suitable land in the planning system to meet the government’s 300,000 target for the rest of this Parliament.

Despite Government’s rhetoric on the effective reuse of brownfield land to deliver houses, its National Planning Policy Framework is powerless to ensure it.  Consequently, it has led to developers seeking to build new homes on the green fields of Cheshire.  The NPPF has accelerated the loss of our countryside.  Meanwhile, the considerable previously developed land identified on the Brownfield Registers of the local authorities of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region has been left neglected and blights neighbourhoods from poor visual amenity and attracting antisocial behaviour and crime.

It is far more sustainable to reuse centrally located and accessible land that has already been built, as the cost of supporting infrastructure is avoided, commuting journeys are shorter and on the whole the natural capital value is lower than losing wildlife habitat and greenfields that have a value to farm production. 

Commenting on the latest figures, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: 

‘Today’s figures clearly show that the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market. If there is enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets, what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve? It’s clear the government have gravely misdiagnosed the problem – slow build out rates and market led housing are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for.

‘But there is a real prize in brownfield – what says ‘build back better’ more than adopting a truly ‘brownfield first’ approach that will breathe new life into the long forgotten and derelict areas in our towns, cities and villages. This approach will deliver huge benefits building the affordable homes in areas where communities want to live, providing access to better transport links and amenities and services they need. 

‘As things stand, the government’s proposed changes will result in a free for all, allowing big house builders to build what they like, where they like, and when they like. Now more than ever is it vital that the government listens to local communities, promotes a genuinely ‘brownfield first’ policy and brings forward more brownfield sites for development so we can build more affordable, well-designed homes.’

Many areas across England with high housing need also have a large amount of brownfield land ready for redevelopment. London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified land available for regeneration that would provide nearly half a million homes (458,587).

In order to make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE is urging the government to introduce a genuine ‘brownfield first’ policy, which ensures that suitable previously developed or under-used land is prioritised for redevelopment over green spaces and countryside. Clearer definitions and guidelines must be given so that the registers act as a true pipeline, identifying all possible brownfield sites and recording their suitability for uses other than housing, including uses that protect the biodiversity or heritage value of sites where applicable.
The State of Brownfield 2020 full report can be found here: https://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/state-of-brownfield-2020/
About CPRE, the countryside charity :

CPRE is the countryside charity that campaigns to promote, enhance and protect the countryside for everyone’s benefit, wherever they live. With a local CPRE in every county, we work with communities, businesses and government to find positive and lasting ways to help the countryside thrive - today and for generations to come. Founded in 1926, President: Emma Bridgewater, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. www.cpre.org.uk    

For CPRE's local group in Cheshire, visit www.cprecheshire.org.uk

For more information on CPRE’s position go to our website to view our manifesto in full:     

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