The Campaign to Protect Rural England is asking people to nominate sites by tweeting or emailing photographs, which it will compile and publish in a national database. The information will be used to put pressure on the government to increase the incentives for developers to target brownfield sites instead of the countryside.
The CPRE says that there is enough brownfield land for at least 1.8 million homes, based on the 84,000 acres of such land identified in the National Land Use Database. If all this land were developed, Britain could meet the annual demand for 250,000 new homes a year without touching any part of the countryside for at least seven years.
The initiative, called Waste of Space, seeks to tap the local knowledge of people across the country about disused buildings and former industrial sites.
The CPRE campaign #wasteofspace featured in the Times this morning – never has a campaign been more aptly titled.
What masqueraded as journalism this morning was simply campaign placement featuring the traditional one-sided argument, bereft of comment from either a local authority with brownfield sites or anyone from the private sector who has ever sought to pilot a brownfield site through the planning process.
On so many occasions it takes literally years to promote a brownfield site – development briefs, site allocations, local plans – the list is comprehensive. The examples given (old factories and industrial properties) are not straight-forwards for two simple reasons. The first is that local authorities don’t want to lose their employment land. The businesses may have given up the ghost and folded, but the local authorities remain committed to the provision of jobs and it’s disingenuous at best to suggest housebuilders are at fault. The second point, glossed over in this ‘article’ is the significant costs of remediation. Many brownfield sites require higher densities to pay for the clean-up costs – a factor rarely welcomed by local authorities, and most definitely not welcomed by the communities in which they are sited.
Fantastic work is being done in many towns and cities across the UK to find new and creative solutions to our brownfield sites, but they are the exception rather than the rule. As is so often the case, developers are pitted against local authorities and communities. The method of resolution is so often the planning appeals process – adding yet more years of delay and cost. If the CPRE wants to make genuine steps to resolve our housing crisis – why not work in tandem with the LGA to find some real solutions and forget the consumer positing.
And as for my favourite newspaper, next time why doesn’t someone from the political or economics desk take a look at the #wasteofspace coming out of the CPRE and at least take two minutes to question the simplistic theories being expounded.
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