Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:10 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Paul Miner:

We think that a brownfield-first approach to new housing and commercial building development can have a number of benefits. We have seen constantly over the years that there is enough brownfield land available for over 1 million new homes in any given year, and this supply of brownfield is constantly replenishing as more sites come forward, and it is possible to build at higher densities.

We think there are a number of clauses in the Bill that could help with brownfield regeneration, such as those relating to changing compulsory purchase order powers, as you have mentioned, and the infrastructure levy. Getting local plans in place more quickly will also help to bring brownfield sites forward. So we see a lot of benefits to a brownfield-first approach.

However, the problem we have consistently had over the past 15 years, under both Conservative and Labour Governments, is that it has been easier for large housebuilders to bring forward speculative developments through the planning system, often not contained within local plans, than to be able to get these schemes through at appeal. We think there are a number of measures the Government need to look at.

Some of these may involve legislation but more involve changes to policy to give councils more power to set targets for the amount of housing needed in their area, to make sure that housing targets reflect what is likely to be built in the area, as opposed to what house builders say when they claim to be meeting housing targets that they then do not build, and to identify local needs for affordable homes. In many areas of the country they are crying out for affordable homes, but the kind of housing that is being built is not meeting those identified needs.

We recognise that there is a lot in the Bill that is helping to bring forward the benefits of a brownfield-first approach, in terms of, as you say, embodied carbon, saving precious agricultural land and regenerating communities in of need levelling up. At the same time, we think there is scope to do much more.