MHCLG expects councils to prioritise brownfield sites to meet local housing need, with greenfield only an option once all others had been “fully explored”.
The response to a related question in the Lords sends a strong signal to councils as to where their decision-making priorities should lie.
In a written question, Lord Patten asked what assessment MHCLG had made of the case for councils to be given the power to refuse planning permission for new building on greenfield sites until all brownfield sites have been developed.
Responding, Viscount Younger referenced the revised National Planning Policy Framework as “making clear” that councils should prioritise brownfield land for development, especially for housing to meet local need.
“This is especially the case where they may be considering the release of Green Belt land, which should only occur once all other options, including the use of brownfield sites, have been fully explored,” said Viscount Younger.
Where council registers identify an estimated 26,000 hectares of brownfield with potential for around a million new homes, the question of whether to refuse an application affecting greenfield land “must continue to depend on the local authority’s planning policies and all other considerations relevant to that particular case – including the protections set out in the National Planning Policy Framework,” he said.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick is on record as confident a “brownfield first” policy can succeed and last month cited the example of the West Midlands, which needs 215,000 new homes by 2031 – figures cited “impossible to meet” without building on the green belt.
Jenrick insisted it could be done, saying that around 500 brownfield sites for housing had already been highlighted in the Black Country alone.
In October, CPRE released a report re-enforcing ‘brownfield first’ and revealing only one in 10 homes built on Green Belt over the past decade can be defined as ‘affordable’.
It was this report that identified enough brownfield land to make way for more than one million homes – saying Green Belt in the guise of providing ‘affordable’ homes squanders a valuable asset.
CPRE saw the trend set to continue in the future with the research revealing proposals for a further 266,000 homes on undeveloped green belt land in advanced local plans – only a third of which were likely to be classified as ‘affordable’ according to local policies.
According to CPRE, the average density of homes within the green belt just 14 per hectare, compared to an average of 31 outside these designated green areas.
A report released in September said British cities could meet nearly three quarters of their 10-year housing demand with existing vacant brownfield land sites in their boundaries.
Research by PLATFORM_, a developer and operator of private rented housing, revealed brownfield land as able to accommodate 367,711 homes across 6,131 sites in 24 of the largest urban areas in England, Scotland and Wales.
This research cross referenced that finding with 10-year local housing need for each city to say brownfield land could accommodate 70.7% of that demand on average.
The sites identified were all vacant or had been earmarked for housing delivery.
But the report said if they were all built for sale they could take decades to deliver.
That same month, Government was urged to urgently review the rules around green belt land to help address London’s housing crisis.
An independent Citizen’s Jury – brought together by London First and the consultancy Community Research – concluded that locally led reviews of the green belt should go together with a “clear commitment” to deliver affordable homes.