More sites for custom build will become available with planning automatically in place, if the government’s proposed a review of brownfield land gets approved. The major overhaul would result in a zonal system of pre-approved sites, similar to that found in Europe.
Part of an extensive plan to boost British productivity announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid in July, the government is legislating to transform the treatment to brownfield land, a vital source of building plots for towns and cities, which offers the potential for far more custom builds.
This commitment manifests itself in the proposal to legislate for statutory registers of brownfield that could be suitable for housing, with the sites identified on these registers to be granted automatic planning permission in principle, depending on a set list of technical details. This will further be bolstered by an easier process of compulsory purchase on suitable sites, due to be considered by parliament.
Its self-styled “urban planning revolution on brownfield sites” is set to free up the process of creating homes by providing funding, infrastructure under the umbrella of strong local leadership, free from unnecessary planning obstacles.
“Different governments have made many attempts to bring forward more brownfield land for housing. The latest initiative appears the most robust and promising yet, but the devil will be in the detail and we don’t know exactly how it will work, or importantly, the scale of sites that will be affected,” says planning specialist Mike Dade.
These measures are part of wider sweeping reform of the planning system, designed to improve the speed of permissions, and continue the improving figures for major applications that were dealt with on time, which went up from 58% in 2012-13 to 77% in 2014-15. All of these measures are designed to limit the delays in planning process that have been evidenced as preventing housing supply to respond to upturns in the market.
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Brownfield land is a double edged sword. On one level it offers a crucial supply of land for housing, and a speedier route to building could easily revitalise our housing supply. But brownfield itself is nothing more than a collective term and to treat it as a single entity is overly simplistic. It may represent land that is significantly polluted or alternatively it may be far more biologically diverse in terms of species, thanks to the fact that it has often been left alone. In fact, some brownfield sites more even be more diverse than farmed Green Belt that’s been treated with pesticides. But it’s further complicated by the fact that brownfield sites may not necessarily be where it is desirable or practical for people to live.
I’m all for speeding up the period that planning takes, with all the hurdles associated with it, but a sweeping automatic planning permission may not be the way forward. After all, the principles behind planning are to ensure that what is built is of the right standards of design and suitability from a contextual point of view. Perhaps a little more thought is needed.