Encouraging words from the Prime Minister on planning and brownfield

7th October 2021

In a big success for the countryside, CPRE, the countryside charity, and our brilliant supporters, Boris Johnson has used his conference speech to signal a brownfield-first approach to new building.

The Prime Minister has used his major Conservative Party Conference speech to signal a commitment to protecting our green spaces from unscrupulous development.

The speech, where leaders typically lay out their priorities, saw Boris Johnson assert that there was no reason that the countryside should be lost to new unaffordable homes, saying ‘you can… see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need… beautiful homes, on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.’

‘Massively encouraging’

Commenting on the speech, Tom Fyans, our deputy chief executive, celebrated the shift in tone towards cutting unnecessary building of executive homes:

‘The Prime Minister could not be more explicit – there is no reason to allow the countryside and local green spaces to be opened up to unscrupulous developers building unaffordable homes.’

'There is no reason to allow the countryside and local green spaces to be opened up to unscrupulous developers building unaffordable homes.'
Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive

‘This is massively encouraging for MPs, CPRE’s local groups and campaigners up and down the country who have fought tooth and nail to protect their local green spaces and to continue to have a say in the planning system.

‘The announcement is a brownfield-first approach in all but name. Done right, it could ensure levelling up means building more affordable homes for young people on brownfield land across the country, but particularly in the midlands and north.’

'‘The announcement is a brownfield-first approach in all but name.'
Tom Fyans

‘No longer can greenfield land be seen as land waiting to be developed as its real value is finally being understood.’

At CPRE, the countryside charity, we’re delighted that the national efforts of our supporters, members, local groups and sector partners have taken effect. For decades we’ve been campaigning to ensure that new homes are built on recycled land, land that’s already been built on but is no longer in use.

It now looks like the government is indicating a move towards this, and away from the toxic proposed changes for the planning system.

The planning bill: what levelling up could really look like

We’re not resting on our laurels, though. Our focus remains on the planning bill and on ensuring that the loose commitment made by the Prime Minister is honoured in changes to the systems that govern our rules on new developments.

Later this year, the government will set out the new hard and fast laws around planning in its Planning Bill and the Prime Minister’s speech shows there’s a real opportunity here to improve the system for people, communities and nature.

'There’s a real opportunity here to improve the system for people, communities and nature.'

As Tom says:

‘We urge the Prime Minister to make sure his vision comes to light in the upcoming planning bill. While the government is now making the right noises, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that our planning system delivers good low carbon design.’

And the time is now to move on cutting carbon through better housing. As November, and the UN conference on climate change, COP26, hosted in Glasgow, looms, CPRE the countryside charity have added our name to a letter representing 22million people across the UK asking Mr Johnson to deliver the historic deal for the climate that will be essential for the survival of the countryside.

Time to double down

At CPRE, we won’t let up our campaigning pressure on the government to insist on the right changes to make sure that enough rural affordable homes are built to tackle the housing crisis – and other crises in climate and nature.

Tom urges: ‘To create the homes and neighbourhoods of the future, ministers must double down on creating a planning system that produces well connected, low carbon homes on brownfield land that are bursting with green space and nature as a standard.’

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An aerial shot of a large area of disused land beside housing
An aerial shot of a West Midlands brownfield site ready for building Sophie Davies / Alamy