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Council brownfield registers miss land that could provide an extra 200,000 homes

12th December 2017

CPRE finds current process isn’t spotting enough small brownfield sites

Brownfield Land Registers are failing to record the small brownfield plots that could provide space for an extra 188,734 homes across England, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has found. A more proactive process and access to Land Registry data could help meet build homes without wasting precious countryside.

Every local planning authority is due to publish an accurate and up-to-date register of brownfield sites that are available and suitable for development  by 31 December 2017,[1] which will be used by developers and community groups looking to find land on which to build homes. In his autumn budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond set out a proposal that 20% of new homes be built on small sites so ‘that brownfield and urban land be used as efficiently as possible for housing development’. [2]

But CPRE says the Government needs to amend brownfield policy and guidance to encourage the identification of the full range of appropriate brownfield sites for housing if that aim is to be met.
An initial audit of already submitted brownfield land registers by CPRE shows that less than 4% of current registered brownfield land is on small sites of up to 10 homes. If councils are to meet the Chancellor’s 20% small site target on brownfield, an additional 188,734 homes across England could be unlocked. [3]

CPRE also commissioned Unlocking Potential, research investigating how local authorities are identifying brownfield sites for the new registers. [4] They found that local authorities routinely disregard small brownfield sites, despite the fact that these usually have existing infrastructure, such as good rail and road links, access to local amenities and proximity to existing communities. They are particularly valuable in rural areas, such as in villages and market towns, where much needed development can be provided without encroaching on the surrounding countryside.

Reasons given for not including these sites include: lack of local authority resources to identify small brownfield sites; perception among builders that the planning system is too burdensome and complex when considering small sites; and lack of transparency in the way that land data is collected, which discourages participation from different sectors, including the local community.[4]

Rebecca Pullinger, CPRE’s Planning Campaigner said:
“Up and down the country tens of thousands of small brownfield sites are not included in Brownfield Land Registers and their housing development potential missed. The current system of collecting this data must be improved if we are to unlock the potential of brownfield, and stop developers finding an excuse to build on greenfield areas.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) supports a “brownfield first” policy, which prioritises brownfield sites for development over greenfield. We are calling on the Government to:

  • amend brownfield policy and guidance to encourage the identification of the full range of appropriate brownfield sites for housing, including small sites
  • fulfil its commitment to open up the Land Registry

CPRE also wants to see local authorities engage more widely to raise the profile of the registers.
Download and read Unlocking Potential: Best Practice for Brownfield Land Registers.

Notes to editors
[2] The Brownfield Register is updated annually from 31 December 2017 onwards.

[3] Estimate of number of potential homes by CPRE:

A Number of brownfield registers published (6 December)                43
B Total identified dwellings (Min Net Capacity)                                  123,731
C Total number of dwellings on small sites                                         4,481
D Average percentage of dwellings on small sites in Registers (B/C) 3.6%
E Average number of homes identified per local authority (B/A)         2877
F If 20% of homes identified were on small sites (C/D x20)                24,894
G Possible potential being missed off Registers per LPA (F/A)          578.94
H Extrapolated number of dwellings across 326 authorities               188,734

[4] Unlocking potential: best practice for brownfield registers. Research undertaken by HTA Design LLP ( for CPRE. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

HTA Design LLP is a collaborative design studio based in London, Edinburgh and Manchester employing 170 staff working in architecture, landscape design, planning, urban design, sustainability and graphic design & communications. A design consultancy to the home building industry, HTA are leaders in urban regeneration, housing, sustainable development and user participation.

The practice was originally established in 1969 and has a strong history of delivering projects in a collaborative manner aspiring to create long lasting, sustainable and innovative places.



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