Sunday, 6 October 2013

Greenfield vs Brownfield

There's been a very healthy debate on the InsideHousing website, following comments from the Planning Minister about research used by the CPRE (and government departments...): 

Spat over building on greenfield sites continues

Nick Boles today embroiled himself in renewed spat with countryside campaigners over the need to build homes on land greenfield sites.
The planning minister locked horns with Shaun Spires, chief executive at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, stating its research showing there is enough brownfield land to build 1.5 million homes was ‘entirely untrue’.
Speaking in a fringe session at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Boles said: ‘I am afraid [Mr Spires’] figure is simply incorrect. It’s an old figure based on very bad research that is entirely untrue. There is not enough brownfield land to build all the homes we need.’
The minister, who has previously riled campaigners by arguing developers should be able to build on greenfield sites, said there was a need to ‘move to a situation where we were just a little more relaxed about making land available’ for development – in some cases not just brownfield sites.
Mr Spires rejected criticisms of the research and told Inside Housing that the figures were robust, and came from a company called Green Balance, which does research for government departments.
‘I am very surprised to hear the minister say that,’ said Mr Spires. ‘If he had a problem with the research then he should have raised it much sooner. It was carried out by a very reputable organisation.’
The argument was triggered by a debate over whether or not there is a need to introduce a minimum space standard. There is currently a consultation underway by Mr Boles’ department to examine whether or not to introduce a national minimum space standard as part of a much larger review of housing standards.
Mr Boles appeared not to support a minimum space standard on the grounds it inhibits market forces, instead arguing that space was only a problem because land was so constrained.
The minister suggested this could be solved by building outside of brownfield sites.
‘We should not be surprised we build the smallest homes in Europe because we have the highest development land prices in Europe. And why do we have the highest development land prices anywhere in Europe? It’s because we allow so little land to be made available for development.
He added: ‘If we don’t provide enough land then we will go on building tiny houses that everybody hates. If we can provide a bit more land we will still have 90 to 92 per of the English countryside entirely without any development, and much happier families.’

Readers' comments (19)

  • My research concurs with EU findings in that the shortfall in housing provision is caused in part by green belt designations and this hysteria about "open countryside" which has been much abused by planners and preservationists.

    Nick Boles has a tough job ahead of him but I firmly believe he is the best man for the job.
  • Whether the actual number is correct or not, it is a gross over-simplification to say that there is enough brown field land to build 1.5 million homes. From my work on housing & planning in a number of locations across the UK, there is a mismatch between where that land is located, and where there is the demand to justify development. Building homes in the wrong places helps no-one.

    The argument about space standards is also something of an over-simplification. I was involved in research for the GLA a few years ago, which found that new houses in England were smaller than most other countries in Europe - and that includes Scotland, where they have space standards in Building Regulations. I don't see the housing market grinding to a halt there. However, we also have much higher standards for distances between dwellings, car parking, highways design, etc. So we waste space between dwellings compared with (for instance) Germany, Netherlands and Sweden.
    Building larger dwellings (slightly) closer together would actually reduce land-take and increase development viability.
  • Gavin Rider
    Jon Watson - I don't know what "standards" you say we have for space between dwellings. Our local planners tell me there is no standard, which is why they seem to make it up as they go along. I have been asking for them to publish a standard for years, but still they make every decision "on the fly" and there seems to be no rationality to their decisions at all.

    They say it is based on precedent, which means that if a previous planning application allowed a house to completely fill an infill plot without leaving any
    amenity space, every subsequent planning application is judged relative to that, which means that there is effectively no metric defining the "over-development" of a site.
  • Gavin Rider
    Addendum - and despite our Parish Council's planning committee opposing developments that leave no access space between buildings, because we consider this to be over-development of the site, the local planners approve them.

    They say there is no requirement for space to be left between dwellings, giving as an example the fact that there is no space between terraced houses.
  • It's self-evident that brownfield sites are generally those where there is less demand, because they are usually in areas where there was once industry and employment and now there is neither.

    The answer is not to build on greenfield sites - which are environmentally unsustainable not only because of a loss of agricultural land or just open space, but also because remote sites mean more private transport, more need to replicate infrastructure, etc. etc. - but to
    put employment back in those old industrial areas. As well as having huge empty sites, they frequently have existing housing that is blighted by pathfinder etc.

    no minimum space standards for the poor, combined with no constraints on big houses on green sites for the rich, and cheaper construction costs on virgin sites are a win-win for the government and their developer buddies. I once thought the conservatives might actually conserve but I have seldom been more wrong.
  • So why if there is so many sites with planning permission sitting there waiting for the house prices to increase yet higher? There was furor not many days ago about councils compulsory purchasing back all the building land that has been sitting waiting to be developed for many years now, yet they are still screaming that they wish to build on green belt? Nope answer is simply we NEED Social Housing more than we need overpriced houses for the wealthy so take BACK the land that is already under planning permission and BUILD the blessed houses we need so badly, this is all to try and force through SCAMerons wife's land so she can make 20 times what she paid for her little bit of farmland and is currently being refused planning permission for.
  • There is no land bank with developers deliberately holding back land. Have a look at the LGA report. It shows a that of the 400k plots with planning permission 250k of these are on sites already being developed. Secondly, local authorities need to demonstrate a five year housing land supply. If the household projections suggest a need for 220k homes a year then the 400k represents just 2 years of supply. We really need a land bank of 1 million in other words. We should be worried that it as few as 400k. Land banking is a diversion tactic deployed by those who really don't want any development.

Spat over building on greenfield sites continues | News | Inside Housing
Green Balance |
See also: What CPRE head thinks of Boles’ idea of building on 10% of the countryside | Sidmouth Independent News

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