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Research Finds England Has Enough Brownfield Land For 1 Million Homes

Britain is currently in the midst of a housing crisis. House prices continue to rise, pushing many would-be homeowners out of the market.

Now the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has released a statement claiming that the solution to the problem could be to rethink the amount so-called “brownfield” land available in England and Wales. The organisation says that there are sufficient brownfield sites across the two countries for the development of more than a million homes.

abandoned buildings in city centre part of a brownfield land site

Development of new brownfield sites would protect rural landscapes from development, says the organisation, reducing encroachment into the greenbelt, while simultaneously helping to regenerate run-down cityscapes in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.

Local Authorities Have Systematically Underestimated The Development Potential Of Brownfield Sites

The CPRE says that local councils have systematically underestimated the amount of brownfield land available for housing and property development. Current estimates only take into consideration land that has already been developed, not unused land in urban areas. Furthermore, existing research assumes a low housing density which the CPRE says can be reasonably increased.

The non-profit organisation says that when it changed the assumptions underlying brownfield analysis, the number of homes that could be built on existing brownfield sites shot up to over a million, offering a potential solution to the housing crisis that would preserve England’s countryside.

Planning campaigner Rebecca Pullinger from the CPRE said that building new homes on brownfield sites would offer a win-win solution by removing existing eyesores from local communities while also helping to regenerate run-down areas and protect rural locations from development.

She also stated that building in existing built-up areas would provide new residents with access to the amenities and transport facilities they currently enjoy, negating the need for costly new infrastructure development.

In total, the CPRE report identified more than 18,000 sites and 26,000 hectares for possible home development. Most of the designated sites are available for immediate construction, with more than 59 per cent being able to deliver new housing within five years.

The CPRE increased the density assumption from 33 dwellings per hectare to 41. According to the CPRE, a density of 41 per hectare is still quite low.

Councils, the CPRE says, are failing to identify possible areas of Brownfield development and, therefore, putting the countryside at risk. Councillors, the CPRE says, should be less conservative in their assumptions regarding how many new homes could be built on brownfield sites.

Brownfield-First Policies

The CPRE wants local authorities to take its research on board to develop “brownfield-first” policies. Under brownfield policies, local government would prioritise development on brownfield sites and ensure full utilisation of all available urban zones. A register of available land would provide a development pipeline that would preserve the countryside while offering the space needed for continued housing development to accommodate a growing population.

The CPRE says its plan would help to preserve heritage sites and encourage continued biodiversity.

The CPRE did not talk about the additional costs associated with brownfield development, nor did it consider the desire of people to move out of cities and into the countryside.

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