Today in the Conservative Party Conference the country’s leaders pledged to build 200,000 “affordable” starter homes by 2020. One of the ways the government intends to achieve this pledge is to release Brownfield sites for the new housing projects by changing the planning system to free under-used or unviable Brownfield land from planning costs and levies in return for a below market value sale price on the homes built on the site.
It is easy to see why this would form an integral part of the “housing reforms” the government is promising. According to a RICS research, there is enough Brownfield land available in England to build 226,000 houses by 2019. But is building on Brownfield sites time and cost-effective?
As part of the plans, the government has promised that up to £10 million grant funding will be open to councils to assist them in bringing forward Brownfield sites that are currently underused or vacant with a view that this will help them carry out preparation, clearance and infrastructure work to make them viable for starter homes. These are one-off funds designed to accelerate provision of starter homes.
Brownfield sites are often on disused or derelict land, and are more expensive to build on as often the land needs to be cleared first, especially if the land is contaminated from previous industrial use. This can exponentially increase the cost of building these “affordable” houses, as well as the time spent on the projects.
It is usually much easier for developers to comply with environmental standards for Greenfield over Brownfield sites, as it is likely Brownfield areas will have been exposed to some level of pollution during their previous usage. Environmental impact is also an issue for Greenfield developments however, as it is likely any new buildings will be placed on rural land, and local residents may oppose this as adversely affecting their lifestyle.
Of course, Greenfield sites are cheaper to build on, but this can encourage urban sprawl, which in turn can encourage commuting and traffic congestion as people travel into urban areas from the countryside. From a sustainability point of view, using Brownfield sites for the new housing projects would be more beneficial.
It is also worth remembering that Brownfield sites are more available in the North and Midlands, whereas most housing demand is in the South East.
What do you think? Is using Brownfield sites the way to tackle the housing crisis and build the promised 200,000 starter homes?
You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of Brownfield sites in our blog HERE.