Availability of brownfield land for housing development in England

Project details

Full project title: Availability of brownfield land for housing development in England

Duration: 1 July 2014 - 30 November 2014

Funder: Campaign to Protect Rural England

Project Leader for SPE:
Dr Danielle Sinnett

Other UWE Bristol researchers:

  • Professor Katie Williams
  • Dr Laurence Carmichael

Visit the project website

Project summary

This research examines the availability of brownfield land for housing in England. Government still has an ambition to build on brownfield and states there is capacity for between 200,000 and 1.5 million homes. However, the amount of available land is disputed, and whatever the precise amounts, clearly too few sites are being brought forward, in the right places, to keep up with housing demand. The Government has also removed the requirement for local planning authorities to report annually on the land used for development (to the National Land Use Database, NLUD), so there is now no national dataset.

First, we collected NLUD returns for 2011 and 2012 from local authorities in lieu of a national dataset and analysed these to provide a picture of the amount and type of brownfield land available (an incomplete dataset has since been published by Government). Second, we studied seven local planning authorities to see how they are identifying and bringing forward brownfield sites. Finally, a series of drivers and barriers to brownfield development were drawn from the literature, policy documents and an expert symposium.

These findings where then used to make some recommendations for central government, the development sector and local authorities.

Key outputs

Key findings

  • Local authorities have identified capacity for at least 1 million new homes on brownfield land
  • Sites with existing planning permission can accommodate more than 405,000 homes
  • A further 550,000 homes can be located on suitable vacant or derelict land, including at least 146,000 in London
  • New brownfield sites replace ones that have already been redeveloped
  • The drivers and barriers to brownfield development can be conceptualised as three inter-related ‘conditions’ that have to be right: market conditions planning and regulatory conditions; and site conditions
  • Local authorities are prioritising development on brownfield land within built up areas, and framing this within overall sustainable urban form thinking using policies such as settlement hierarchies to identify and prioritise brownfield land
  • All the authorities studied were mindful of their prime responsibility for housing delivery, and some were concerned that an overtly ‘brownfield first’ policy would not be permitted in their Local Plans
  • Many see some form of greenfield development as inevitable if they are to meet longer term housing targets
  • Recommendations from the findings include: the reintroduction of a ‘brownfield first’ approach and the mandatory reporting to the National Land Use Database and increased powers to the Homes and Communities Agency to redevelop challenging sites

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Danielle Sinnett (Danielle.Sinnett@uwe.ac.uk).

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