London has around 4,000 hectares of brownfield land, enough for about a third of a million homes. Building on brownfield may be slightly more costly to developers, but it’s well worth it for society: it often regenerates areas and produces more sustainable development that is closer to existing infrastructure and established neighbourhoods.
That’s why I am pleased that last week the Chancellor used his Mansion House speech to announce new funding for development of brownfield land. The Telegraph explains:
The Chancellor also vowed to unleash an “urban planning revolution” by changing planning rules to “remove all the obstacles” that prevent the development of brownfield sites. He said councils “will be required” to create pre-approved planning permissions – or local development orders (LDOs) – on derelict sites in towns and cities. He announced £5m of funding to help create the first 100 LDOs and said that 90pc of brownfield sites should have them by 2020. The reforms could result in planning permission for 200,000 new homes.
Under the plans, local authorities across the country will be expected to bring forward their brownfield land for development, and specify what should be built on them. This is a positive step away from the developer-led approach that dominates house-building in this country, where we sit and wait for the private sector to take the lead instead of proactively outlining where homes should go and what amenities and infrastructure they’ll require. The Chancellor also promises cash to help clean up many of these sites – the cost of remediation is often cited as a barrier to development – and in London the Mayor has pledged to match this funding.
So far so good.
But it all depends on how Boris executes this opportunity. He needs to make sure that the local development orders stipulate sufficient levels of affordable housing. He also needs to ensure that the “changes to planning rules” outlined by the Mayor don’t mean “no planning” – these developments must meet all the requirements to which all others are subject, on issues like housing standards (eg on design, space, energy efficiency, amenity, etc.) and infrastructure provision.
I wrote to Boris last week and asked him to commit to these reasonable demands. You can read my letter here.