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

21 October 2020

There is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes and over half a million already have planning permission, a new report from 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.

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 housebuilders 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 will be published on the CPRE website in October 2020.

Please call our Media Relations Lead, Jonathan Jones, on 07739 332 796 for further information.