William Little, an environmental planning consultant from ADAS, has said that brownfield land can often be extremely important from a biodiversity point of view and often should be left free of development.

“The Government has set targets that more than half of all new homes should be built on brownfield sites and the argument in favour of protecting green belt land is vociferous. But, the fact is that this approach to brownfield construction is too inflexible,” he said.

“It is frequently the case that when land is left abandoned, rare plants and species that have disappeared from agricultural land can be re-established. For example, colliery sites in the West Midlands are now being considered for development – despite the existence of rare species of plants and insects.”

Mr Little added that these sites could also play an important role in providing opportunities for people to learn about the environment, particularly when these sites are located in urban areas, with good access, as many of them are.

“Planning authorities are exhorted to build on previously used land but this inflexible approach threatens the destruction of important sites that act as a reservoir for rare and endangered species and provide open space for people in urban areas,” he explained.

ADAS is calling on planning authorities not to simply authorise brownfield construction as a matter of course, but for more freedom to be given so that each site can be considered on its own merits and the benefits it could bring.

“A more rational approach by Government in setting its targets, would prevent the destruction of many unusual and valuable habitats,” Mr Little concluded.

By David Hopkins

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