Brownfield Land

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 14th September 2015.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham 2:30 pm, 14th September 2015

What support his Department is providing to local authorities to encourage development of brownfield land.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

What support his Department is providing to local authorities to encourage development of brownfield land.

Photo of Rebecca Harris Rebecca Harris Conservative, Castle Point

What steps he is taking to encourage development on brownfield land.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

What support his Department is providing to local authorities to encourage development of brownfield land.

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

We intend to create a fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing. We will continue to support the regeneration of brownfield land through a range of measures, including announcing up to £400 million to create housing zones.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is particularly important to encourage investment in brownfield land where the site in question, such as Springbank shopping centre and the former Carlton Street post office in my constituency, is a local eyesore that attracts graffiti and other antisocial behaviour?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We want brownfield land to be brought back into use and for homes to be built on it. I am sure that my hon. Friend, as a diligent constituency MP, will make the case for individual sites in his area. This Government are committed to delivering the houses needed in the right places across the country.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

Greenfield sites across Pendle are under threat because the new Lib Dem and Labour administration of Pendle Borough Council has abandoned plans to spend the £1.5 million allocated for brownfield regeneration under the previous Administration. What more can the Department do to support the people of Pendle and to help fulfil their wish that brownfield is always developed ahead of greenfield?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

The Government are setting up a brownfield fund, with £1 billion, and are introducing the brownfield register. We have an expectation that homes will be built, because the country needs them, and that they will be built in the right places, particularly on brownfield sites. My hon. Friend makes a very important point on behalf of individual sites in his constituency about the approach of his local authority. I am sure it will have heard him loud and clear on a matter that his constituents will be very keen to see resolved.

Photo of Rebecca Harris Rebecca Harris Conservative, Castle Point

I welcome the Government’s redoubled commitment to support the development of brownfield sites. Does the Minister agree that, with the help of the Government’s new measures and extra effort by local authorities, brownfield sites can be developed more quickly and easily than by leaving large areas of green belt to be developed by large-unit developers, whose business model is not resulting in many houses?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, informed by her own direct experience. It is important that local authorities do not just plan to deliver the future houses we need in the right places, but ensure that the plans are deliverable. There are examples of best practice across the country, with local authorities delivering completions and the new housing needed, and I know that other authorities will look to them to see what lessons can be learned and what they can do in their own areas.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

In my constituency of Mid Derbyshire, a large brownfield site is being decontaminated and made ready for redevelopment, but it has been left out of Derby City Council’s core strategy because the council states that the site will not be ready for development until 2028, despite the site manager saying that it will be sooner. Does the Minister agree that we must prioritise building on such brownfield sites?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

With the brownfield fund and the accelerated powers we are giving local authorities for planning on suitable brownfield sites, the direction of travel and the intention of Government are clear. Local authorities need to ensure that opportunities in their areas are deliverable and that they are delivered. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s important comments regarding her constituency will have been heard today.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Minister knows that there is a national shortage of homes and a housing crisis for the people whom we represent. He will not get anywhere with the illusion that that can all be dealt with through brownfield land. Brownfield land is often very expensive and in the wrong place. This Government will not acknowledge that we must build on greenfield to provide the homes that we need, but they do not like it: they are terrified of their constituents.

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

Listening to our constituents and recognising their concerns is an important part of the planning process. We cannot just ignore local sites of beauty or the value of our environment. It should be recognised and protected and account taken of it in the national planning policy framework. That said, we need to deliver more homes, which is why, on top the measures I have mentioned, the Government are releasing significant amounts of public sector land to deliver another 150,000 homes on brownfield land during this Parliament, meeting our obligations in a way that our constituents recognise is appropriate.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

We must get developers to get on and build homes, but does the Minister accept that in a local authority area with sufficient land for building housing it would be inappropriate for a planning authority or the Planning Inspectorate to approve the building of houses on sports grounds when there is a need for them and users who want to open them as sports grounds?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

The direction from Government is absolutely clear—we want to see more houses built in appropriate places. We want to facilitate and assist local authorities that want to build on brownfield sites to bring the sites back into use and to build the houses that are needed. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I am sure his local authority hears it, too.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

The Minister’s ambition to build more houses, in particular on brownfield land, might be good, but is he aware of a recent survey by the Federation of Master Builders that highlighted the fact that many in the construction industry are still struggling to secure finance and that raw materials and skills are in short supply? What is he doing to address those issues?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

The hon. Gentleman raises a range of important points, including the skills agenda, which is part of our devolution discussions in many areas. While I am tempted to go down that route, it is important to focus on what the Government are doing on brownfield, which is very significant. I say again that we have the brownfield fund and the brownfield register, and we are working to accelerate planning on such sites to deliver them and to release public sector land. This Government are doing a lot to deliver housing on brownfield, not on the green fields that some Opposition Members seem to think should be the priority for building.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities)

Will the Secretary of State or the Minister confirm the average cost per hectare of remediating brownfield land?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

The hon. Lady asks for figures I do not have immediately available, but this Government are setting up a significant fund to deliver housing and to free up and make viable brownfield sites. That will make a real difference and will encourage development on the sites that we want developed. I am happy to write to her in due course with the specific figures for which she asks.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities)

I will help the Minister out here—I have some figures to hand. The cost of remediating brownfield land can range from £50,000 per hectare to over £1.7 million per hectare for the most contaminated land. Does he believe that the fund he proposes will be adequate to deal with brownfield land? The reason such land is brownfield, derelict and unused is that it can be difficult to remediate. In the east end of Glasgow, 350 hectares of brownfield land need remediation. How far will the fund go?

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Northern Powerhouse)

A range, of course, is not an average, although I recognise the hon. Lady’s concern. She, like us, wants brownfield land to be regenerated and built on and housing delivered in the right places, and the £1 billion fund being established by the Government will go a long way to doing that. It will make a real difference. It will deliver houses where they are needed—and on brownfield land that has not been used and from which there has been no benefit for far too long.