Nationwide brownfields strategy launched

English Partnerships and the ODPM have launched a pilot programme aimed at solving the legacy of long-term derelict land in twelve local authorities in England after research found more than 2,000 long-term, or 'hardcore', sites that have lain vacant or derelict since 1993.

These sites, totalling around 42,000 acres and mainly in the north of England but with significant concentrations in the south east, have failed to be regenerated due to a series of problems including contamination, market failure, cost and planning difficulties.

A further 4,500 sites were identified as suffering medium term dereliction, having been vacant for at least five years.

The twelve pilot areas are Easington, Barrow-in-Furness, Manchester, Sheffield, Mansfield, Dudley, Milton Keynes, Ipswich, Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham, Bristol and Kerrier in Cornwall. The pilot areas have been chosen because they provide a mix of rural and urban examples and include authorities with different urban initiatives already in place. It is hoped at least one hardcore site in each area will be developed for commercial or recreational use. Funding will be acquired through private sector investment.

Launching the pilot programme, Planning Minister Keith Hill said: "This is the ultimate recycling policy - recycling land will help protect the countryside and enhance its quality rather than creating urban sprawl. It is a cornerstone of our plans to deliver sustainable communities and will provide, for the first time, a coherent vision for the future development of brownfield land."

In each area a short-list of long and medium-term derelict sites will be identified and practical studies undertaken to assess the barriers to employment or housing development or to returning the land to recreational or natural use.

Professor Paul Syms, National Brownfield Strategy Director for English Partnerships said he though he had a good idea as to how land had become derelict and why it was not being re-used. However, he added: "The pilot programme will actually tease out the real practicalities of bringing these long-term, hardcore sites back into beneficial use. While there will be common themes, the spread of pilot areas means that we will be able to assess the impact of local influences and come up with solutions to a wide variety of development barriers."

As well as determining development barriers and solutions, the pilot projects will also help reveal which local brownfield partnership models operate most effectively and generate input from local communities most successfully.

Work is scheduled to begin over the next two months.

By David Hopkins



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