New data on 'land recycling' and brownfield use across the UK

Countryside campaigner CPRE has praised those councils whose planners – working with developers – are leading the way in breathing new life into our towns and cities and sparing our countryside from the bulldozer. With PPG3 directing that new homes should be built in the density range of 30 of 50 dwellings per hectare (dpha), and at higher densities for sites which are well served by public transport and/or close to town centres, CPRE has collected data on which councils are complying. The minimum density needed to support a viable bus service is around 40 dpha. More information is available online.

But CRPE is also pointing the finger at those councils with the worst record in losing greenfield land. These are the ones which achieved only very low levels of using previously developed, brownfield land for new homes – or which allow developers to build homes at wastefully low densities.

Out of a total of more than 300 councils in England outside London, 43 have succeeded in having at least 90 per cent of their new homes built on previously developed, brownfield land – as opposed to never developed greenfield land – according to the latest Government figures.

Fifteen of these councils have achieved a land recycling level of at least 95 per cent, which means less than one new home in every 20 was built on a greenfield site.

The land recycling heroes are: Adur (96 per cent), Bournemouth (98 per cent), Brentwood (98 per cent), Dudley (99 per cent), Elmbridge (98 per cent), Epsom and Ewell (99 per cent), Hertsmere (96 per cent), Sandwell (97 per cent), Spelthorne (98 per cent), Surrey Heath (96 per cent), Three Rivers (96 per cent), Watford (an unbeatable 100 per cent), Woking (98 per cent) and Wolverhampton (95 per cent).

CPRE is currently campaigning hard to prevent proposed changes in Government planning guidance weakening the enlightened 'brownfield-first' approach of recent years which has brought about these improvements – helping to regenerate towns and cities and to protect the wider environment as well as saving countryside from development.

But despite the strong overall progress, the figures show some councils were still performing very weakly.

Thirteen councils covering medium sized and larger towns (40,000 plus people) built less than one third – or 33.3 per cent – of new homes on brownfield land. These were: Ashford (33 per cent), Boston (28 per cent), Corby (at  per cent, England's worst land recycler), East Riding (23 per cent), Eastbourne (30 per cent), Great Yarmouth (31 per cent), Harlow (23 per cent), Kingston upon Hull (33 per cent), Milton Keynes (13 per cent), North Lincolnshire (16 per cent), Rugby (30 per cent), Swindon (32 per cent) and Waveney (25 per cent). Ashford in Kent may actually be performing much more poorly than these Government figures suggest – which is particularly worrying since it is one of the Government's growth areas in the Greater South East, earmarked for massive housing expansion. [9]

While most new homes are now being built at medium densities of greater than 30 homes per hectare – as called for by Government planning guidance – the figures show that more than 100 councils across England are still wasting land by granting planning permission for new homes at densities which average less than this.

London boroughs, especially those in inner London, achieve very high levels of land recycling – largely because land prices are so high and undeveloped land so scarce, and were excluded from the analysis.

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