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Brownfield sites developed six months faster than greenfield sites

16 March 2016

 Regenerating our towns and cities could provide the homes we need. Regenerating our towns and cities could provide the homes we need. Photo: © Creative Commons.

New research shows Government proposals to release more countryside are aiming at wrong target

Research published today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that brownfield sites are being developed more than half a year faster than greenfield sites. [1] This follows on from CPRE research carried out in late 2014, which found that there are enough suitable brownfield sites for at least 1 million new homes. [2]

The new research (236K PDF) covered 15 local authorities across England between March 2012 and December 2015. [3] Carried out by construction consultants Glenigan, the data reveals that the time between planning permission being granted and construction work starting is generally the same for brownfield and greenfield sites, but that work on brownfield sites is completed more than six months quicker.

While the Government has pledged to invest more than £2 billion in brownfield regeneration and establish a brownfield register, many of its proposed changes to planning policy are aimed at making it easier to build on greenfield land. [4] These proposals include developing small sites in the Green Belt and a ‘housing delivery test’ that would force councils to release more land for development if housebuilders do not meet high housing targets.

This new research illustrates that prioritising investment in brownfield sites is a highly effective way of building the homes we need. The research undermines claims that brownfield is either too slow or inconvenient to develop in comparison to greenfield.

Brownfield land is quicker to develop than green field

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“This Government has strongly supported brownfield development. Now it must show it has the courage of its convictions and usher in a brownfield revolution to tackle the housing crisis, benefit England’s towns and cities, and save the countryside from inappropriate development.

“This new research shows that brownfield sites are developed more quickly than greenfield sites, giving the lie to the idea that developing a brownfield site must be difficult or unprofitable. What is needed now is for the Government to put all its energy behind getting houses built on derelict and vacant sites.

“Crucially, it must drop the idea that the way to get houses built is simply to make more countryside available. The evidence is that this will slow down house building, rather than speed it up.”

CPRE is calling on the Government to:

  • Amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make the intentions of Ministers clear and prioritise the use of suitable brownfield sites in urban areas over greenfield - including empowering councils not to allocate greenfield sites in local plans and to refuse planning permission on greenfield sites where these would compete with suitable brownfield sites
  • Commit to seeing development started on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020, rather than just aiming for planning permission on 90% of suitable sites by 2020
  • Make suitable brownfield sites the first priority for any public funding, and prevent public funding for greenfield sites where these would make competing demands
  • The Government should reform the New Homes Bonus to invest billions in regenerating brownfield sites [5]
  • Make clear that planning and fiscal policies promoting brownfield development are focused on existing towns and cities, and damage to brownfield of high environmental or heritage value should be avoided


Notes for editors

[1] CPRE with Glenigan, Brownfield comes first (236K PDF), report March 2016 (embargo 21 March 2016).

[2] CPRE, From Wasted Space to Living Spaces, report November 2014.

[3] The research examined 12 urban and urban-rural fringe areas covering 15 local authority areas. These were: Cheshire East; Corby; County Durham; Coventry; Fylde; Leeds; Leicester, Blaby, and Oadby & Wigston; Salford; Southampton and Eastleigh; Stoke on Trent; Swindon; and York.

[4] A consultation on the NPPF published on 1 December 2015 (496K PDF) proposes that local councils are made to allocate more land for development if housebuilding targets are not met (paragraph 33). This land could often be greenfield land.

[5] The Government has recently (up to 10 March 2016) consulted on reforms to the New Homes Bonus. CPRE has provided a response (207K PDF)to this consultation.

If you would like to talk to planning campaign manager Paul Miner about the research in more detail then please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2880, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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