England already has enough brownfield land to accommodate 1.3 million new homes, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said, as it hit out at the government’s proposed reforms to the planning system.
The CPRE’s annual Recycling our land: the state of brownfield report found that that there is currently enough land for over 1.5 million homes using brownfield land and land already given planning permission – enough to meet the government’s 300,000 new homes a year target.
The countryside charity said the findings show that government criticism of the current planning system, which ministers have criticised as slow and outdated, is misplaced.
CPRE’s chief executive Crispin Truman said: “Today’s figures clearly show that the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market. It’s clear the government have gravely misdiagnosed the problem. It is slow build-out rates and market-led housing that are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for.
“If there’s enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets, what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve?”
According to the CPRE’s report, government brownfield registers show that there is enough brownfield land for 1,061,346 housing units over nearly 21,000 sites – 565,564 of which (53%) already have planning permission.
Many of these sites are in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham, which are set to benefit most from the government’s £400 million Brownfield Land Fund.
The CPRE has warned that the government’s proposed planning changes will result in a ‘free-for-all’, risking green spaces and countryside and the government’s ‘build back better’ agenda.
The charity has recommended that a stronger ‘brownfield-first’ policy should be included in any new planning system, while funding should be focused towards councils in the North and Midlands who should be given more time and stronger powers to bring forward development on brownfield land.
“What says ‘build back better’ more than adopting a truly ‘brownfield-first’ approach that will breathe new life into the long forgotten and derelict areas in our towns, cities and villages?” Crispin added.
“Now more than ever, it’s vital that the government listens to local communities, promotes a genuinely ‘brownfield-first’ policy and brings forward more brownfield sites for development so we can build more affordable, well-designed homes.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson commented: “The government is overhauling the country’s outdated planning system to make it easier to build on brownfield sites, protecting our valued green spaces and green belt for future generations.
“Our planned reforms will deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need, placing environmental protection, community engagement and sustainability at the heart of our reforms.
“We’ll increase the supply of land available for new homes where it is needed to address affordability pressures, support economic growth and the renewal of our towns and cities.”