Brownfield sites outpacing Greenfield development

A group campaigning to protect green belt land has claimed that brownfield development is outpacing greenfield development by six months, writes property developer Richard Carr.

Wrong targets

Richard Carr

Should the government divert their focus from green to brownfield land?

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has issued new research which suggests that government proposals to release more countryside are aiming at the wrong target.

Instead, they should focus on brownfield sites, which according to the data is being developed more than half a year quicker than the equivalent greenfield sites.

The government is aiming to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 and research carried out by CPRE in 2014 suggests that there is enough suitable brownfield in the UK to supply at least 1 million new homes.


15 local authorities between March 2012 and December 2015 were analysed by construction consultants Glenigan, who found that the time between planning and the start of construction on greenfield and brownfield developments was generally the same. However, brownfield sites were developed upon six months quicker.

The government will argue that brownfield is a priority and will reference the £2 billion invested in brownfield regeneration as well as the establishment of a brownfield register.

Despite this, the proposed changes to planning policy appear to make it easier for developers to use greenfield land; such as developing small sites on green belt land and a ‘housing delivery test’ that may force councils to release land to developers.

Shaun Spiers, CEO of CPRE said:

“This Government has strongly supported brownfield development. Now it must show it has the courage of its convictions and usher in a brownfield revolution to tackle the housing crisis, benefit England’s towns and cities, and save the countryside from inappropriate development.

“This new research shows that brownfield sites are developed more quickly than greenfield sites, giving the lie to the idea that developing a brownfield site must be difficult or unprofitable. What is needed now is for the Government to put all its energy behind getting houses built on derelict and vacant sites.

“Crucially, it must drop the idea that the way to get houses built is simply to make more countryside available. The evidence is that this will slow down house building, rather than speed it up.”

Richard Carr says that although he does not totally agree with this assertion he does agree that there is plenty of brownfield land, however the planners will not allow high enough density which in most cases stops the land owner from developing the land.