Telegraph Back to the Good Old Derelict Land Grant Days – via tax breaks
Builders are to get new incentives to make it easier to build on derelict sites in towns and cities to spare the green belt, George Osborne is set to announce this week.
The Chancellor will use a speech on Thursday in the Mansion House in the City of London this week to offer new ways to persuade developers to build more homes on derelict sites in towns and cities.
Campaigners complain that developers are keener to build on greenfield sites around the edge of towns than shoulder the cost of building on previously developed or “brownfield” land.
This is because the soil in former industrial sites have to be cleaned up and decontaminated before work can start.
There is enough brownfield land in England for 2.5million new homes, a large proportion of which are in London where demand for new homes is at its highest.
Sources said the changes would serve to support existing planning guidelines and incentivise builders to develop derelict land.
The news has emerged as MPs on the Communities and Local Government committee start a major review into the Coalition’s planning reforms on Monday.
New planning rules which came into force in 2012 were amended to include a strengthened requirement for builders to develop brownfield areas before greenfield ones, after the “Hands Off Our Land” campaign supported by readers of The Daily Telegraph.
These rules – in a 52 page document called the National Planning Policy Framework – will not be changed. The NPPF already has strict protections for the green belt – the ribbon of greenfield land around towns which prevents urban sprawl.
Campaigners welcomed the plans. Shaun Spiers, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It looks like a welcome recognition that more needs to be done to use sites in towns and cities that are derelict and not force development sprawling into the countryside.”
Sir Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, added: “There are thousands of acres of serviced land lying fallow in our biggest cities and there should be tax incentives to develop these before starting to build on green fields.”
In April, Sir Simon had said that a bias towards building on greenfield sites meant that towns and cities were being left “to die”. He said: “We are creating Detroits in the north while we are eating up the countryside.”
A Treasury source declined to comment saying that reports of the incentives were “speculation”.
Last month a report from Civitas, the right of centre thinktank, said taxpayers should foot the bill for cleaning up derelict to allow new homes to be built there.
In the Civitas paper, Peter Haslehurst, a businessman who chairs a global materials company, called for a new plan to redevelop Britain’s industrial heritage wastelands, breathing life into towns and cities while protecting green belt land.
Mr Haslehurst, whose company has spent more than £10 million in the past decade on the environmental clean-up of sites it has taken over from other occupants, said there are no specific grants to help meet such costs.
Instead companies had to negotiate Whitehall small print to understand, what was claimable, “the relief not only virtually impossible to obtain and the burden of pursuing it virtually insurmountable”.