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Five reasons why we should use brownfield first

Five reasons why we should use brownfield first

For many people the countryside is their workplace; for others a place they can connect with nature and improve their wellbeing; for many more simply a patch of green in which to walk their dog. Whatever your relationship with the countryside, the joy it brings is worth defending.

This is why we care deeply about where development goes, and why we want to see regeneration of previously used land – termed ‘brownfield’ - prioritised over building on our countryside: because it provides much needed new homes and helps protect the pleasure and benefits we all derive from our green spaces.

What is brownfield?

Brownfield land is any piece of land that has previously seen development – from car parks to factories to office buildings. While a handful of these sites are valued by local communities and wildlife, the vast majority are wasted space – derelict and unused, ugly and available for regeneration.

But how do we ensure that these wasted spaces are turned into the new homes we need, and help protect the countryside? We need a brownfield-first approach to development, and here’s five reasons why.

Why brownfield first?

1. It has huge potential for new homes

Thanks to our campaigning, each local council has a register of available brownfield land in their local area. Our new analysis shows that councils have already identified enough brownfield land for at least 1 million new homes – a massive contribution to the homes we need for the future. And the council data shows two-thirds of these sites are ready to build on – so 600,000 of these homes could be delivered in the next five years.

2. Recycling is good!

Recycling and repurposing land is as important as recycling our household waste. England has a finite amount of land, and it’s important we use it well. Brownfield is also a renewable resource – as our towns and cities change, so does our use of land – meaning new opportunities are identified all the time. This has been confirmed by our findings: 14% of the 1 million potential new homes were added in the past year alone.

3. They’re usually quicker to build

Brownfield sites are developed, on average, six months quicker than greenfield sites, once they have planning permission. The reasons for this are complex, but when we need to deliver new homes, quickly, the potential should not be overlooked.

4. It can help transform our cities and towns

Building on brownfield land presents a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration. Homes built on brownfield land are often located near to existing infrastructure, transport and services, which is where most people want to live.

5. It helps us save our beautiful countryside

By prioritising the use of suitable brownfield sites over building on our countryside, the homes we need can be built in the places we need them, while the countryside has space to thrive.

Steps in the right direction

Our campaigning so far has had a huge impact. Every local planning authority now has a brownfield register, showing the government the massive potential of brownfield. Last year, the National Planning Policy Framework – the national rulebook for planning – was reviewed and, following calls from CPRE, brownfield land features much more prominently, giving ‘substantial weight to the value of reusing suitable brownfield land within settlements’. It also better recognises a wider range of opportunities on previously developed land including under-utilised land.

We’ve still got a way to go

Despite these improvements, the reforms don’t go far enough. The government continues to state that it has a brownfield-first policy, but the reality is: it doesn’t. Without a policy that empowers councils to refuse greenfield development where there are suitable brownfield alternatives, valued countryside will continue to be lost while derelict land and local eyesores remain idle. The warm words are not enough.

We also need better regulations to ensure that all suitable brownfield land is being found and recorded. Research carried out CPRE London in the Borough of Enfield found space for at least 37,000 homes on brownfield land - compared to just 2,170 homes identified on the local council register. If this picture is replicated across the country, we could be missing the potential for huge numbers of home that can help tackle the housing crisis.

With the potential to deliver over a million new homes, a figure we have confirmed for two consecutive years, the government must make sure this opportunity does not go to waste, and commit to a genuine brownfield-first policy.

We might not be able to build every single home the country needs on brownfield sites, but it’s vitally important that we properly consider those options first. To do otherwise is to devalue our beautiful and unique countryside and deny future generations the chance to love it as we do.

How do we ensure that wasted spaces are turned into the new homes we need, and help protect the countryside? We need a brownfield first approach to development

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