Great Britain has an undersupply of housing units requiring 340,000 new builds annually until 2031.
The good news is official data indicates that there are currently 21,000 brownfield sites covering nearly 25,000 acres across the UK.
It is estimated that this acreage offers adequate space to build many housing units that could ease supply woes.
Land and Property Development
Brownfield land offers several advantages for builders, investors, and developers. They are usually located in urban areas where the need for land development is the greatest.
However, a topographical survey is needed to map out the land including existing buildings, trees, water courses, underground utilities, and so on.
The results of the survey are used in designing the development plan as well as in securing building or planning permissions.
It also enables developers to maximise land use and minimise errors. Hence, even if these sites are cheap to buy, site preparation and development may be pricey.
Knowing the topography of the site prevents developers from making costly mistakes.
Another benefit of investing in brownfields is the availability of infrastructure. For example, road and rail links may already be in place making the site accessible.
Furthermore, these locations may be part of a development or regeneration zone, so there may be grants or financial incentives offered by the government to help with land remediation.
To illustrate, the Brownfield Land Release Fund 2 (BLRF2) offers up to £180 million in capital grant funding to all English councils to support the release of brownfield sites owned by them for housing.
Furthermore, it’s often easier to obtain planning permissions for a brownfield site than a greenfield location.
Promote Brownfield Land Utilisation
Unfortunately, this land also has several downsides.
First, their locations are often in places where it is not attractive to housing development such as industrial areas.
Some may be found in former industrial towns or rural areas where the value of land is low.
Second, redevelopment is usually expensive for developers if the land requires demolition and site clearance.
Third, toxic materials may be present in the site because of its previous industrial activities, making remediation a costly expense.
Fourth, some brownfield sites may have an environmental or historical importance limiting their land use.
In short, even if the government prioritises brownfields over greenfields as reflected in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the National Planning Policy Framework which is due for review this year must also emphasise its exploitation according to the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) or the Countryside Charity report.
Some of the proposed measures include only allowing greenfield development if used primarily for local affordable housing, increasing the Infrastructure Levy for greenfield land, and New Homes Bonus reforms to support brownfield development.
Overall, brownfield land has the potential to supply an enormous amount of lodging units to improve the housing crunch.
Making the sites attractive by providing incentives and limiting access to greenfield land can encourage more real estate investors and developers to put their money on brownfield housing development.
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