21st Dec 2022|New Homes|

A Guide To Brownfield Sites

A recent interview with Ritchie Clapson, co-founder of propertyCEO, indicated that brownfield sites hold the key to the residential housing market crisis. But what precisely does this mean? What are brownfield sites? And why aren’t we using them?

What are brownfield sites?

In short, a brownfield site is a previously developed piece of land that is not currently in use. It could contain vacant structures, or have been the previous site of now demolished structures. If the land was once occupied by a permanent structure, but is no longer occupied, it can be considered brownfield. Countryside charity CPRE often call brownfield land ‘recycled land’, or land that is prime for repurposing.

This is different to greenfield sites, which are plots of land that have never been built upon, such as agricultural land and ancient woodland. The general consensus is that greenfield sites ought to be preserved, whilst brownfield sites should be repurposed for our commercial and residential property needs.

Why don’t we use brownfield sites?

With an abundance of brownfield sites across the country, why aren’t we utilising these spaces better? There are a few reasons…

  • Brownfield sites are more commonly found in areas of lower economic growth, with these areas producing less demand for residential and commercial property units, which is often why they have been left vacant. As such, repurposing these sites makes little sense
  • Demolition may be necessary if structures still exist upon the plot that are unable to be repurposed. This may also lead to requiring an asbestos survey or extra expense for demolition costs
  • Viable brownfield sites that are in popular areas and require little work are often snapped up by developers very quickly, making it hard to find quality plots for repurposing
  • Brownfield plots can be expensive to rebuild upon, namely if the ground requires decontamination. This is typically the case for old industrial sites, and will cost money and time to carry out the necessary procedures and surveys to assist in decontamination
  • Since these plots have already been utilised in the past, many builders are wary about building on brownfield plots, as you can never predict what you’ll find. In many regards, the risk of hazards may be greater

Can brownfield sites be repurposed?

Although it can be challenging to build upon brownfield sites thanks to the points mentioned above, this isn’t to say that brownfield sites cannot be successfully repurposed. In fact, the existing infrastructure of brownfield plots can actually be beneficial for saving time and money, as this eliminates the need to implement drainage and electrical facilities. Similarly, since brownfield plots have already been constructed upon in the past, the likelihood of obtaining planning permission is far greater when compared to greenfield sites, not to mention the lack of controversy when repurposing brownfield land when compared to their greenfield equivalent. Unused brownfield sites in residential areas can also bring down surrounding property prices, so local residents and councils are often keen to redevelop the sites to improve the environment and help with regeneration.

What is the Brownfield Land Release Fund?

In 2021, the Brownfield Land Release Fund, or BLRF for short, announced £75 million in funding from the government to assist local authorities to promote the redevelopment of brownfield sites as an alternative to greenfield ones. This promoted self-build options, residential housing developments and custom build serviced plots to be constructed on currently vacant land

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Old land, new homes

It is believed that brownfield plots hold the capacity to meet the government’s new homebuilding aims for four years straight, with these plots having the capacity to provide well over one million homes across the UK. These plots could help the government reach and even exceed their current targets to construct 300,000 residential units per year. Thanks to the BLRF and government backing, brownfield sites are slowly becoming more popular for developers, with a few fantastic examples of redevelopment being seen across the country already. In fact, the first phase of the release fund built 7,750 new homes, namely across Blackburn, Blackpool and Rotherham, with these more northern towns and cities having more available brownfield sites for repurposing. With the competitive property prices in the north, as well as the upcoming arrival of HS2 making connections between the North, Midlands and South easier than ever, the appeal of moving northwards is becoming more and more pertinent.

Want to know more?

Brownfield sites may be the hidden key to mitigating the ongoing housing shortage, alleviating pressures in the property market, and boosting home ownership across the UK. With increased funding for brownfield projects, we anticipate a bright future for these ‘recycled’ plots, especially as an alternative to land within the greenbelt. For more information on brownfield development, and how Centrick can assist you in finding the perfect plot for your development needs, contact our team below:

Land Owner Enquiry

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