England has enough brownfield for 1m homes, ministers say

England has enough brownfield land left to build 1 million new homes - 400,000 of them in the accommodation-starved South East - according to estimates released by the Government on Tuesday.

A total of 63,000 hectares of previously developed land was available for development in 2005, forty per cent (27,600 hectares) of which was suitable for house-building, the Department for Communities calculates using local authority figures. That is enough space for 1m homes, ministers said.

“There is a real need to build more homes if we are to meet the housing needs of future generations and these statistics show that many of these could go on re-used sites,” said Lords planning minister Baroness Kay Andrews.

But she acknowledged that some local authorities are still not making full use of brownfield land – and that in some regions it is simply not available. Recent figures show that while some councils, such as Watford, build all new homes on reclaimed land, others, such as Corby, construct as many as 91% of new houses on greenfield land (see related story).

“In some areas it may be necessary to bring forward other sites if we are to meet local demand, but there are other areas where local authorities could be doing more with the land that is already available,” said Baroness Kay.

With the Government planning to progressively boost its house-building drive over the next decade, organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have expressed concerns over the effects that the housing boom will have on the countryside, and said that better use could be made of brownfield land.

The CPRE agreed with the Government’s assessment of available brownfield land area – but said that many more houses than the estimated 1million could be fitted onto the land.

The charity’s planning campaigner Paul Miner told edie: “In 2005, according to DCLG figures, the average density of new house-building across England was 41 dwellings per hectare. We believe that densities of at least 50 dwellings per hectare are achievable. If this density is achieved across the country, the 27,600 ha of brownfield land available could yield 1,380,000 new homes.”

CPRE ” believes that it is crucial that the final PPS3, to be issued later this year, raises the density range for new housing development to 50 dwellings per hectare minimum rather than a range between 30-50 as in the current policy;

That’s 38% more than the 1million Government estimate,” he said.

CPRE supports the Government’s brownfield-first policy which has led to house-bulding density rising from 25 dwellings per hectare before 2001 to 41 in 2005, and almost three quarters of new housing now being constructed on re-used land, he said.

But the organisation expressed fears that the proposed Planning Policy Statement 3, due later this year, will weaken the brownfield-first approach, and called for it to raise required housing density from the current 30-50 dwellings per hectare to a minimum of 50.

The annual number of new homes being built currently stands at 160,000, roughly three quarters of them on brownfield land. This rate is still short of meeting demand, and the Government plans to increase it to 200,000 by 2016.

Even if the current rate of house-building stayed constant for the next 10 years, available brownfield land as predicted by the Department for Communities would run out by 2016 – assuming the percentage of homes built on brownfield land does not change.

The new statistics are available online on the Department of Communities website.

More information on the Government’s house-building plans is available here.

Goska Romanowicz

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