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Housing delivery needn’t simply be a case of brownfield vs greenfield development
09 Nov 2021

When the Chancellor recently announced in his Autumn Budget that £1.8 billion would be made available to redevelop brownfield land, it was a step in the right direction but it’s unlikely to be enough to deliver the 160,000 new homes quoted as its goal. 

Here, Suzanne Tucker from FBC Manby Bowdler’s Town and Country Planning team explains why.

The headline figure of £1.8 bn to redevelop brownfield land is comprised of £300 million of locally led grant funding to unlock smaller sites, and £1.5 bn to regenerate underused land.  It sounds impressive, but once you’ve considered the levels of contamination often associated with such sites, it’s unlikely to be enough.

Added to this, are the combined issues of how easily developers can successfully access the funding, whether it will be enough to entice them to develop brownfield sites when greenfield remain significantly more attractive (not least of all in terms of speed of delivery and profitability), and what implications this new funding might have on other incentives for such development.  As it currently stands, additional costs of brownfield development are off-set by reducing other planning obligations – often a lower number of affordable houses being required.  Whether the funding now on offer is sufficient to avoid that sort of approach, which runs counter to the Government’s other aim of boosting the provision of affordable housing, remains to be seen.  

So where does this leave owners of brownfield sites?  Simply, they must actively investigate what funding is available in order to help make their site more marketable to developers.  There’s no avoiding the fact that the often-unknown status and degree of site contamination can prove hugely off-putting to any potential developer.  Funding to support the landowner with preliminary survey work to identify what sort of gremlins need to be tackled in order to facilitate development can therefore be hugely beneficial – after all, the fear of the unknown can have a significant impact on value and marketability.

It’s easy to think, however, that this is simply a question of derelict brownfield vs leafy greenfield site development.  With COP26 turning the world’s attentions on how to collectively reduce its carbon footprint, there’s also a growing awareness of the re-use of existing materials and structures rather than heading down the ‘demolition and start from scratch’ approach.

And here, it’s encouraging to see Telford & Wrekin Council making a bold commitment to do exactly that.  In its recently announced ‘2021-26 Empty Property Strategy’, it details how it will use robust enforcement powers to bring empty properties back in to use.  An empty home is not only a waste of a home which could be usefully occupied, but it’s also likely to fall in to disrepair and consequently attract anti-social behaviour.

There are a multitude of legal reasons why a property may be left empty, but where it’s simply a case of the owner being unwilling to bring it back in to use, Telford & Wrekin Council will now take court action and utilise compulsory purchase orders if necessary to remove those properties from the owners’ hands and bring them back in to a liveable condition.

Whether you’re a brownfield landowner unsure of how to prepare and market your site for development; you’re a homeowner facing its compulsory purchase or a developer wishing to consider options other than building on a greenfield site, then the planning team at FBC Manby Bowdler can advise on your options.

Meet Suzanne Tucker