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Record breaking number of brownfield sites identified for redevelopment

20 December 2022

A record breaking number of brownfield sites has been identified for redevelopment as the housing crisis deepens, new CPRE report shows

  • Largest number of brownfield sites ever recorded – enough for 1.2 million homes –lying dormant
  • Despite a growing housing crisis, almost 30,000ha. of brownfield land, most of it in town and city centres, needs regeneration and is ideally situated for new homes
  • Nationally, only 45% of brownfield sites have planning permission – with the former industrial heartlands faring worst

The number of new homes that could be built on brownfield land has reached record levels, new research by CPRE, the countryside charity, has found. To help address a growing housing crisis, over 1.2 million homes could be built on 23,000 sites covering more than 27,000ha. of previously developed land. Just 45% of available housing units have been granted planning permission and 550,000 homes with planning permission are still awaiting development.

The data shows clear regional disparities. On the whole, the former industrial heartlands, which are most in need of levelling up, are least likely to have planning permission to redevelop brownfield land. Compared with the national average of 45%, the proportion of available housing units with planning permission is: 33% in the northwest, 36% in the West Midlands and 40% in Yorkshire and the Humber.

CPRE’s latest ‘State of brownfield’ report calls for a range of measures to protect green fields, farmland and countryside, while boosting the development of social and truly affordable homes in areas where it is most needed. Previous research has shown that development of the highest quality farmland has soared 100-fold in ten years while brownfield sites wait for regeneration. Meanwhile, the demand for social housing is growing six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas and, at current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take over 120 years to clear.

Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: 

‘You know the system is broken when hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and families are on social housing waiting lists, many in rural areas. Meanwhile, across the country tens of thousands of hectares of prime brownfield sites are sitting there waiting to be redeveloped.

‘There have been promising commitments by the government to incentivise brownfield development, tackle land banking and clamp down on short term lets distorting the rental market. But the scale of the challenge requires so much more. There’s no way to fix an overheated, undersupplied housing market without a new generation of social or truly affordable housing.

‘The only solution is a commitment to building hundreds of thousands of new homes available at social rents or sold at affordable prices linked to local wages. Investing in brownfield regeneration would have a transformative effect. Done with consideration, such developments breathe new life into communities while also building the homes local people actually need alongside existing infrastructure such as public transport, schools and shops.’

Recently announced changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, including emphasising brownfield over greenfield development, are welcome but vague. CPRE is calling for broad amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework, which is due for review in 2023, to include a clear prioritisation of brownfield development over unnecessary losses of greenfield sites. Among the recommendations are:

  • Only allowing greenfield developments when they are primarily affordable housing for local needs, or as much use as possible is already being made of brownfield land;
  • The New Homes Bonus should be reformed so it is only paid out to support either development of brownfield land and/or additional affordable homes;
  • The Infrastructure Levy should be set at a much higher rate on greenfield land to reflect the high costs of greenfield development to local communities; and
  • Provide local communities with stronger mechanisms to bring brownfield land forward as a source of land supply, such as increased compulsory purchase powers



Analysis of 344 local authority brownfield land registers, 143 of which have been updated since the previous analysis (as of November 2022), revealed the current identified capacity for homes on brownfield land stands at 1,232,592. This is an increase of 6% since 2021, or an additional capacity for ~70,000 homes since the previous analysis.

Table 1 – The total quantity of brownfield sites and hectares, and the total minimum housing unit capacity as recorded on local authority brownfield land registers. Source: CPRE / local authority brownfield land registers.

Year Number of sites Hectares Number of housing units
2022 23,002 27,342 1,232,592
2021 21,566 26,256 1,162,969
2020 20,750 24,684 1,061,346
2019 18,277 26,002 1,077,292
2018 17,656 28,349 1,052,124
Difference (2018 – 2022) 30% -4% 17%


Of the 1,232,592 housing unit capacity on brownfield sites, we found that 45%, or 555,874, of this capacity currently has planning permission (this includes those with outline permissions and reserved matters).

Table 2 – The minimum number of housing units and the proportion of which that have planning permission on brownfield land between 2018 and 2022. Source: CPRE analysis / local authority brownfield land registers.

Year Number of housing units Number of housing units with planning permission Percentage (%)
2022 1,232,592 555,874 45%
2021 1,162,969 506,086 44%
2020 1,061,346 565,564 53%
2019 1,077,292 535,785 50%
2018 1,052,124 613,052 58%


The proportion of housing units with planning permission is widely distributed throughout the country, with many regions falling around the national average of 45%. However, the northwest, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber, in particular, are lagging behind in terms of permission given to brownfield sites (33%, 36% and 40%, respectively).

Table 3 – The minimum number of housing units and the proportion of those which have planning permission by region. Source: CPRE analysis / local authority brownfield land registers.

Region Minimum housing capacity 2022 Proportion of housing units with planning permission (%)
East 110,080 54%
East Midlands 66,094 59%
London 399,458 46%
North East 34,852 46%
North West 165,919 33%
South East 170,941 48%
South West 71,452 56%
West Midlands 98,743 36%
Yorkshire and the Humber 115,052 40%
Total 1,232,592 45%


The top five local authorities for brownfield land housing capacity in 2022:

  1. Southwark Borough Council – 54,550
  2. Birmingham City Council – 37,326
  3. Wandsworth Borough Council – 36,988
  4. Manchester City Council – 36,978
  5. Brent Borough Council – 29,149

Local authorities with the greatest increase in brownfield housing capacity since 2021:

  1. Brent Borough Council – 16,679
  2. Waltham Forest Council – 13,865
  3. Wandsworth Borough Council – 7,987
  4. York City Council – 6,002
  5. Trafford Council – 3,261

For further information or to interview a spokesperson, please contact: 

Sam Relph, CPRE Media Relations Lead, at or 020 7981 2827 / 07739 332796