On 12 October, the government announced that approximately £58m of the Brownfield Land Release Fund has been allocated to local authorities to deliver housing on underutilised public sector land.
Brownfield land is notoriously difficult to develop, requiring expensive remediation. So while this funding will enable some brownfield sites to deliver much-needed housing, those of less certain success will be stalled by viability, the market, build costs and policy – specifically by likely changes in relation to phosphates, which is an unresolved and very immediate concern for brownfield sites.
Furthermore, with marginal viability, fewer affordable homes (including First Homes) will be delivered. And with brownfield land typically delivering smaller properties, such as apartments, the funding ignores the most pressing need – family homes.
£5m of the funding is allocated to self- and custom-build projects. We support measures to encourage self-build but have reservations about its potential to deliver the significant numbers required, as well as the likely need for incentives such as a relaxation of CIL.
The housing crisis needs clear and decisive government action to ensure that the 300,000 new homes target is met, and it is impossible to tackle the crisis without new settlements.
New settlements are not just a means of delivering a large numbers of homes; they also provide an opportunity to meet the government’s aims around green buildings, sustainability, healthy living, quality and beauty.
By their nature, new settlements have a long lead-in time, with 20- to 30-year horizons to enable the infrastructure and homes to be planned and delivered, which is far beyond the current development plan periods.
To this end, we note further recent government guidance on plan-making, which advises local authorities to produce a 30-year vision document where the timescale of new settlements is three decades or longer, and consequently homes will be delivered ‘well beyond’ the plan period.
The Brownfield Land Release Fund is good news for under-utilised urban sites, but this longer-term approach is also necessary to deliver the 300,000 homes required each year.
Lawrence Turner is associate director at Boyer