That’s why the results of the CPRE’s new analysis of brownfield registers is such fantastic news.
Through their brownfield land registers, councils have worked hard to identify space suitable for more than one million new homes on land that is currently derelict, vacant or underused. Prioritising this land for housing would not only help to remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration, but also prevent the unnecessary loss of precious countryside and green spaces.
“More than two-thirds of these potential new homes are ‘shovel ready’ and could make an immediate contribution to meeting housing need
More than two-thirds of these potential new homes are ‘shovel ready’ and could make an immediate contribution to meeting housing need, as they are deliverable within five years. As well as offering an opportunity to deliver much-needed new homes now, our analysis highlights the potential for brownfield land to continue providing a steady pipeline of housing, with more than 120,000 of the potential new homes added to the registers in the past year alone.
This is great news for communities crying out for new housing, for run-down towns and cities in desperate need of regeneration, and for our countryside and environment that is facing unprecedented strain from new development.
Despite this demonstrable success, the full potential of the registers to bring forward as much suitable brownfield land for housing as possible is yet to be fulfilled, because there are a large number of sites that are being missed.
The restrictive definition of ‘previously developed land’ in the Government’s planning rule book – the National Planning Policy Framework – means that sites, such as supermarkets and their car parks, which could be converted to provide homes while maintaining existing use, are unlikely to be included in the registers.
We also know that many small sites are being overlooked, and that the housing density assumptions for the brownfield land identified is low. By increasing the density of housing built on all brownfield land, and ensuring that all small brownfield sites in urban centres are identified and added to the registers, councils will be able to make best use of the space available and deliver more homes.
Done well, building on brownfield brings homes, jobs and services closer together, reduces car dependence, removes local eyesores and enhances communities for the benefit of existing and new residents.
However, until we have a ‘brownfield first’ approach to development – and all types of previously developed land are considered – a large number of sites that could be transformed into desperately needed new homes will continue to be overlooked.