Prioritising previously-developed sites would provide homes, regenerate areas and protect countryside from being built on, campaign group CPRE says.
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More than a million homes could be built on brownfield land, helping to meet housing demand and regenerate towns and cities, campaigners say.
A new analysis of councils’ brownfield land registers by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) suggests there is space for a million homes on suitable sites which were previously built on and now sit derelict or vacant.
Two-thirds of the potential new homes are on sites which are “shovel ready” and are deliverable within five years, so they could make an immediate contribution to meeting housing need, the analysis suggests.
CPRE argues that prioritising the brownfield land which councils have shown is suitable for development will provide more homes and transform run-down areas.
And it will prevent the unnecessary loss of countryside and greenfield sites for housing, the campaign group said.
With more than 120,000 potential new homes added to the registers across England in the last year alone, brownfield land could continue to provide a steady pipeline of new housing, CPRE said.
But it warned that the definition of the land available for residential development for the registers may be missing opportunities to make better use of existing developed sites – meaning more homes could be provided.
And the assumptions for the density of housing on a site are low, so that increasing the number of properties built on brownfield could help councils make the best use of the space and deliver more homes, the charity said.
The analysis shows 18,277 sites identified across the country with 1,077,292 potential new homes – of which 634,750 homes are deliverable within five years.
London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified suitable previously-developed land which could provide almost half a million homes.
CPRE is calling for the Government to introduce a genuine “brownfield first” policy which ensures suitable previously-developed or under-used land is prioritised for housing over green spaces and countryside.
And clearer definitions and guidelines are needed for the registers to be a better pipeline of sites, identifying all brownfield areas and recording their suitability for uses other than housing, including protecting their wildlife or heritage value where appropriate, it urged.
Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at CPRE, said: “Building on brownfield land presents a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration.
“It will help to limit the amount of countryside lost to development, and build more homes in areas where people want to live, with infrastructure, amenities and services already in place.”
She added: “Councils have worked hard to identify space suitable for more than one million new homes.
“But until we have a brownfield first approach to development, and all types of previously developed land are considered, a large number of sites that could be transformed into desperately needed new homes will continue to be overlooked.
“The Government, local councils and house builders must work hard to bring these sites forward for development and get building.”
Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “This Government is committed to building the homes our country needs while still leaving the environment in a better state than we found it.
“We’re encouraging planners to prioritise building on brownfield land and working with local authorities to ensure sensible decisions are made on where homes get built.”
By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent.