We have enough brownfield land to build a million new homes
Some may be surprised that the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) agrees we need to boost the supply of housing in England – in both town and country. Even before the dramatic decline in housebuilding triggered by the recession, we were building far too few affordable homes. Between 1950 and 1980, more than 100,000 affordable rented homes were built each year by social housing providers. But even before the recession, we barely managed 60,000 new affordable homes annually. And the provision of such homes has now reduced by a third. In rural areas, just 2,886 affordable homes were built in 2013, according to the recent report of the Rural Housing Policy Review.
But as CPRE’s election manifesto states, as well as needing more of the right kind of housing, we need it in the right places. That means providing affordable rural housing and focusing attention on the great potential for making better use of previously developed, brownfield sites, which exist in all towns and cities across the country. ‘From Wasted Space to Living Spaces’, prepared by researchers from the University of the West of England and published by CPRE in November last year, demonstrated that there is enough suitable brownfield land available now to accommodate at least 1 million new homes, with a significant proportion in the south-east and London. And, crucially, it found that new brownfield sites continue to come forward to replace ones that have been redeveloped, showing that brownfield is a renewable resource.
CPRE has used this new evidence to press the case for a stronger focus on brownfield housing. Recent Government announcements show they appear to be listening. But we need to redouble efforts to make sure a ‘brownfield first’ approach is put back at the heart of planning policy. Making the best of brownfield will require the new Government to adopt a fresh vision for urban renewal so that we get better places – and homes – for all.
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