His Telegraph Article – No change in policy though just a change in regulations (extension of PD rights on the B1 model). In the medium term it is unlikely to result in less greenfield loss as development plans will have to replace the lost and actively occupied employment land, and in many cases this will be an new ‘excptional circumstance’ for Greenbelt loss.
We’ve always been a green and pleasant land: and we must stay that way, preserving the best of our countryside and other green spaces. But we’ve also been facing a serious housing shortage in this country, and we’ve got to increase supply in line with demand. I’m determined that we rise to that challenge without building unnecessarily on undeveloped land. The way to do that is to use brownfield better.
It makes more sense to have new homes in existing urban areas, where people have easy access to the jobs, shops, transport and service on offer. And with careful management of public services and transport, existing residents benefit too, from regeneration and new investment in infrastructure.
That’s why our priority is – and always will be – building on brownfield land: land that has been previously developed. New figures being published today show that there’s enough of this land for 200 000 new homes across more than 5000 hectares.
But the trouble is, until now much of it has been hard to access or utilise in the best way: perhaps because it needs a thorough clean up or services need to be connected. So now we’re pulling out all the stops to make it easier so these homes get built as soon as possible.
We’ve already taken important steps in the right direction. Government has a strong programme of selling off publicly owned land. So far we have released 560 sites with the capacity for more than 76,000 homes. And there is more to go.
We have also been tackling the problem of empty homes – a real waste and blot on the landscape. Under our watch the number of homes without inhabitants has fallen to a ten year low in England and the number of long-term vacant properties has been cut by a third since 2009.
And we have reformed permitted development rights to free up the planning system and encourage the conversion of existing vacant buildings into much-needed dwellings. It is now easier and cheaper to turn empty commercial property into new homes in towns centres and to transform agricultural buildings into housing for rural communities. We are also bringing homes closer to the high street by making it easier to covert shops, financial and professional buildings.
We plan to go further still this summer, consulting on a package of proposals including converting former warehouse and industrial space into new homes for families. But we can go further by working with councils to get brownfield land ready for housing as soon as possible.
For example, we want local authorities to agree local development orders for the land, making it easier, quicker and cheaper for developers to get building. As an incentive, we’ll be investing £400 million in ironing out any problems on thirty of these new ‘Housing Zones.’ These will be completely groundbreaking projects which will transform currently wasted space into new housing.
As we all recognise, the need for new housing is particularly acute in and around London. But at the same time, we know there’s lots of brownfield land around. So twenty of these Housing Zones will be in the capital, with £200 million of government funds to be matched by London Assembly investment. At the same time, we are giving the Mayor new powers to sort out stalled developments or councils which aren’t responding quickly enough. And we’re investing £150 million in regenerating some of our most deprived estates.
There are also steps which councils can – and should – take themselves. For example, we want to encourage councils to sell off land and assets which aren’t being used productively so that they can be turned into houses. We can all think of disused buildings or wasted space which might be put to better use in our own communities. Some councils are already adopting this – like Hartlepool, which has sold 11 sites since last May – but all of them should be taking action. We also introduced a Right to Reclaim Land for people to use if they don’t think their council is acting quickly enough. And we want to see councils supporting that by being open and transparent about what they own. Finally, councils should be identifying land which has previously been developed and is ripe for new housing, and making sure it’s included in their local plans.
Locally-led collaboration will get a lot more homes built than conflict. By working together with councils and developers, we can turn currently disused, abandoned and wasted land into the new homes we so desperately need. That way, we can also protect and enjoy the beautiful fields and forests, the village greens and the urban parks, that we all value so much.
Britain must remain a “green and pleasant land”, with new housing development instead concentrated on brownfield sites, a Cabinet minister says today.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, says the Government’s push to increase housebuilding must be focused on land that has already been built on in and around towns, “preserving the best of our countryside”.
To encourage more urban living, the minister will soon unveil new proposals for converting former warehouses and factories into new homes for families
Mr Pickles’ comments, in a Telegraph article, come after George Osborne announced a fresh Government drive to build hundreds of thousands of new homes to help bring balance to the UK property market.
The Treasury’s determination to increase house building levels has raised fears that more green land could be built on. Property developers prefer to build on rural land because it is often cheaper and easier than redeveloping urban sites.
Building on brownfield land will allow the Government to reconcile the need for more houses with the protection of the countryside, Mr Pickles pledges.
“We’ve always been a green and pleasant land: and we must stay that way, preserving the best of our countryside and other green spaces. But we’ve also been facing a serious housing shortage in this country, and we’ve got to increase supply in line with demand. I’m determined that we rise to that challenge without building unnecessarily on undeveloped land. The way to do that is to use brownfield better,” he writes.
Earlier this week, the Chancellor vowed to unleash an “urban planning revolution” by changing planning rules to “remove all the obstacles” that prevent the development of brownfield sites.
Under new rules councils will be required to create pre-approved planning permissions – or local development orders (LDOs) – on derelict sites in towns and cities to make it quicker for builders to start work.
Officials estimate that 90 per cent of brownfield sites should be covered by fast-track planning rules by 2020. That could result in planning permission for 200,000 new homes by the end of the decade, ministers say.
“It makes more sense to have new homes in existing urban areas, where people have easy access to the jobs, shops, transport and service on offer,” Mr Pickles said. “And with careful management of public services and transport, existing residents benefit too, from regeneration and new investment in infrastructure.”
Previous Government initiatives to boost building have alarmed countryside campaigners, but the focus on brownfield sites pleased former critics like the National Trust.
Ingrid Samuel, the Trust’s historic environment director, said: “We have called for state investment to get difficult brownfield sites ready for development, and so we welcome moves in this direction from Government – and the clear recognition from the Chancellor of the need to protect valued countryside.
However, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) expressed concern at the prospect of councils losing more power over development decisions.
“Developing brownfield land is vital but removing planning control will lead to a legacy of low quality housing as local authorities may not be able to apply the necessary high standards to development,” the group said.
“The TCPA also fears that this policy could have a disproportionate and highly negative effect on places and communities outside London and the South East, particularly in the north of England where much larger areas of land are classified as brownfield.”