£1.8bn to Deliver Homes on Derelict Land

Hundreds of thousands of new homes will be built on derelict and unused land through a £1.8 billion package of investment to regenerate land and level up across the country, announced by the Chancellor in his Budget and Spending Review.

£300 million of locally-led grant funding will be awarded to Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Authorities to unlock smaller brownfield sites for housing, promoting inner city regeneration and protecting the countryside.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak has said: “We are investing in better quality, safer, greener and more affordable homes to create thriving places where people want to live. One of my favourite pastimes is to go for walks in the park with my family, and I want to make sure everyone has green space on their doorstep to enjoy too. Transforming our unloved and neglected urban spaces will help protect our cherished countryside and green spaces, while improving the physical and mental health of our communities.”

A new £9 million Levelling Up Parks Fund that will enable Local Authorities to transform over 100 neglected urban spaces across the UK into ‘pocket parks’, providing small green oasis in built up areas, roughly the size of a tennis court, in built-up locations.

We warmly welcome any moves to ensure that urban regeneration is promoted in a sustainable way that greens our environment, fosters bio-diversity and improves the quality of life.

The London Plan; The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London

The Mayor has published a draft for public consultation, about which he says “So this London Plan sets out a new way of doing things, something I am calling Good Growth.” If you have any comments the consultation period runs to 2 March 2018.

The report has quite a lot to say about housing and the use of brownfield sites.

Efficient Land Use

In a section titled “Making the best use of land” the report points out that “London’s population is set to grow from 8.9 million today to around 10.8 million by 2041… This rapid growth will bring many opportunities, but it will also lead to increasing and competing pressures on the use of space. To accommodate growth while protecting the Green Belt, and for this growth to happen in a way that improves the lives of existing and new Londoners, this Plan proposes more efficient uses of the city’s land.”

The report then develops the theme of more efficient land use:

“1.2.2 The key to achieving this will be taking a rounded approach to the way neighbourhoods operate… This will mean creating places of higher density in appropriate locations to get more out of limited land, encouraging a mix of land uses, and co-locating different uses to provide communities with a wider range of services and amenities.

1.2.3 The benefits of this approach are wide-ranging… High-density, mixed use places support the clustering effect of businesses known as ‘agglomeration’, maximising job opportunities… They are places where local amenities are within walking and cycling distance, and public transport options are available for longer trips, supporting good health, allowing strong communities to develop, and boosting the success of local businesses.

1.2.4 Making the best use of land means directing growth towards the most accessible and well-connected places, making the most efficient use of the existing and future public transport, walking and cycling networks…

1.2.5 All options for using the city’s land more effectively will need to be explored as London’s growth continues, including the redevelopment of brownfield sites and the intensification of existing places, including in outer London. New and enhanced transport links will play an important role in allowing this to happen, unlocking homes and jobs growth in new areas and ensuring that new developments are not planned around car use…

Policy GG2 Making the best use of land

To create high-density, mixed-use places that make the best use of land, those involved in planning and development must:

A Prioritise the development of Opportunity Areas, brownfield land, surplus public sector land, sites which are well-connected by existing or planned Tube and rail stations, sites within and on the edge of town centres, and small sites.

B Proactively explore the potential to intensify the use of land, including public land, to support additional homes and workspaces, promoting higher density development, particularly on sites that are well-connected by public transport, walking and cycling, applying a design–led approach.

C Understand what is valued about existing places and use this as a catalyst for growth and place-making, strengthening London’s distinct and varied character.

D Protect London’s open spaces, including the Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, designated nature conservation sites and local spaces, and promote the creation of new green infrastructure and urban greening.

E Plan for good local walking, cycling and public transport connections to support a strategic target of 80 per cent of all journeys using sustainable travel, enabling car-free lifestyles that allow an efficient use of land, as well as using new and enhanced public transport links to unlock growth.

F Maximise opportunities to use infrastructure assets for more than one purpose, to make the best use of land and support efficient maintenance…

Delivering the housing London needs

1.4.5 To meet the growing need, London must seek to deliver new homes through every available means. Reusing large brownfield sites will remain crucial, although vacant plots are now scarce, and the scale and complexity of large former industrial sites makes delivery slow. Small sites in a range of locations can be developed more quickly, and enable smaller builders to enter the market. Building more housing as part of the development of town centres will also be important, providing homes in well-connected places that will help to sustain local communities…

Increasing housing supply

Policy H1 urges that: boroughs should optimise the potential for housing delivery on all suitable and available brownfield sites through their Development Plans and planning decisions… Boroughs should proactively use brownfield registers and permission in principle to increase planning certainty for those wishing to build new homes…

Small Sites

Under Policy H2 Small sites the report says that: Boroughs should increase planning certainty on small sites by:

1) identifying and allocating appropriate small sites for residential development

2) listing these sites on their brownfield registers

3) granting permission in principle on specific sites or preparing local development orders…

Vacant building Credit

In section 4.9.1 there is a reminder that: “In 2014 the Government introduced a Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which applies to sites where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building. The VBC reduces the requirement for affordable housing contributions based on the amount of vacant floor space being brought back into use or redeveloped. This has significant implications for delivery of affordable housing in London where a high proportion of development is on brownfield land where there are existing buildings.”

Download the plan

Brownfield Registers

Councils in England and Wales are to get new tools to speed up the development of derelict and underused land for new homes, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell has advised.

Brownfield registers were piloted in 2016, when 73 local planning authorities from across the country pioneered the measures.

All local authorities in England and Wales will now have to produce and maintain up to date, publicly available registers of brownfield sites available for housing in order to help house builders to quickly identify suitable brownfield sites.

Communities will be able to highlight local derelict or underused building sites that are primed for redevelopment thereby encouraging inward investment and increase the number of new homes in the area.

‘We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we re-use brownfield land is crucial. We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside. These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this,’ Barwell stated.


Homes Must be Located Near Places of Work, Schools, Hospitals, and Transport

New homes must be located near places of work, schools, hospitals, and transport, said delegates at a recent RTPI event. Speakers at the RTPI and Planning Portal’s Conservative Party Conference fringe event agreed that a coordinated planning approach is necessary for the creation of new estates to support economic growth. Logically this must mean brownfield development and the need to develop an approach to encourages good quality development of this type.

CPRE calls for High Density High Quality Developments on Brownfield Sites near Transport Hubs

Housing should be developed alongside transport infrastructure for economic, social and environmental benefits, say countryside campaignersmakingthelink

A new paper released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that high-density development near to high-quality public transport services could boost businesses and jobs, create more well-designed homes and build more diverse, exciting communities – all while reducing pressure on the Green Belt and the wider countryside.

CPRE’s ‘Making the Link’ paper builds on emerging changes to Government policy: the Government’s recent NPPF consultation identified 680 commuter hubs suitable for high density development, for example. The paper argues that attention can also be given to smaller places like market towns, which play a hugely important role in rural communities in delivering much needed connectivity, services, employment and business opportunities.

Situating high-density housing near transport hubs can concentrate development on brownfield sites in need of regeneration and increase connectivity to employment centres. This has the potential to make towns more attractive for residents and business, halt damaging urban sprawl and reduce car use and road congestion.

The paper suggests a number of options to encourage such development, such as reduced business rates for local businesses and the roll-out of planning tools to help identify suitable locations for development.

The paper calls for:

Higher-density development based around public transport hubs, planned around local services and waking and cycling.

Quality design: high density development needn’t mean tower blocks in market towns. Terraced housing and mansion blocks can provide high density homes and preserve the unique character of towns.

Diverse communities: developments should provide a mix of housing types for a mix of backgrounds and income levels.

Local services and business: developments should include shops, cafes and offices – providing convenient services for residents and helping local businesses grow. These businesses should benefit from reduced business rates in a similar manner to Enterprise Zones.

Crowd Funding: A Win, Win solution to Affordable Housing & Brownfield Development?

The Yorkshire Post recently featured an article about CrowditBuildit and their project to build low cost starter homes on land at Merton Lane, Sheffield. Here is a precis.

A conversation about a possible PhD, between custom-build expert Yan Lewandowski and lecturer Dr John Paul Kawalek of the Sheffield University Management School ended with an idea for a novel way of financing and building affordable homes.

CrowditBuildit was born, and with the support of Sheffield City Council a plot has been secured to build six custom-built, semi-detached, affordable homes. Sheffield is one of 11 vanguard councils given government funding to promote and enable custom and self-building. Part of that Right to Build pilot scheme remit was identifying suitable land.

Homes are being offered for sale at 13 per cent below market value and, if successful, the business model will be rolled our across the country.

“There are a few examples of build to-rent property projects that have been crowdfunded but they are loan-based. This equity-based way of doing it is new, as is using it for custom building,” says John.

The six Sheffield semis, aimed at first-time buyers, have a price tag of £99,000, which is £16,000 below their market value of £115,000. Resale clauses to deter speculators state buyers can only sell for 80 per cent of the market value in the first year of ownership and 90 per cent in the second year.

The projected return for investors in the Sheffield project is at least 8.5 per cent. As soon as the build is complete and the properties are sold, the original outlay is returned along with the interest.

“One of the main reasons for doing this scheme is to allow young people to buy a home. When the house is built there will be ready-made made equity in it, which means the owners will end up with a sizeable deposit on their next home. If they stay then they could be mortgage free within 15 years instead of the average 25,” says Yan.

The pair are already looking ahead and exploring the options for future projects.