Green Belt, Brown Field and Flood Plain development, with whose benefit in mind?

An interesting article from INSIDE HOUSING website discusses the advantages and disadvantages of developing brownfield sites.
It also suggests that many brown field sites are in the UK flood plain. The pro’s and con’s of these sites revolve around expense. Brownfield may be expensive to “clean up” whilst flood plain locations may be less expensive land. The concensus is that brown field should be elevated to priority, as developable land whilst flood plain requires serious consideration whether the expense benefits are out-weighed by the possible threat from surface water flood or flooding from the sea. What is perfectly clear is that if Castle Point Borough Council wished to defend, rather than promote, Canvey Island Green belt from development then the argument would not be difficult to put before the Planning Inspectorate. Advice from the Inspectorate makes clear that the sustainability of Canvey Island can be maintained without the need for large scale development.

” The benefits of brownfield
Developers are being put off brownfield sites by restrictive regulations, says Lee May, associate at Brachers
The government wants to build more homes and many are likely to be built on previously undeveloped land. A recent investigation by the Daily Telegraph found that more than 95,000 homes could be built on the green belt. But society benefits when brownfield sites are chosen as the pressure on greenfield sites is reduced and it can result in environmental improvements through the remediation of contamination. Brownfield development can also help to regenerate run down urban areas. So why doesn’t this happen more often?
Contamination law
A key factor which can put developers off is the risk of having to carry out remediation and decontamination of brownfield sites.
Complying with the contaminated land regime, set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, can significantly add to the cost of a redevelopment. The original polluter should be responsible for the clean-up, but it may be inherited by the developer. The potential risk of having to deal with contamination also creates uncertainty over timing and cost.
Many brownfield sites are also located in flood-risk areas, such as the Cannon Street development in Deal, Kent, which can add to the cost of development by imposing design restrictions and through requirements for flood alleviation measures. The risk of flooding and the availability of insurance can put off purchasers, affecting the value of a housing scheme.
Habitat protection issues are often associated with development in the countryside. But previously developed land in urban areas can provide ideal habitats for many species which are protected under European law. The cost and delay of providing replacement habitats can be significant.
Risky investment
Obtaining funding to redevelop brownfield sites is challenging. The risk of contamination and flooding makes the development less attractive to funders concerned with the final value. There is also the unresolved issue of whether a funder could become liable for contamination.
Many local authorities are likely to miss the deadline for having in place an up-to-date plan showing a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. In this the national planning policy framework states that planning permission should be granted for housing schemes unless the adverse impacts of doing so would significantly outweigh the benefits.
This means that some councils will find it hard to resist greenfield sites put forward by developers even where there are suitable brownfield alternatives. If development on brownfield sites is to be encouraged then rules on contaminated land where the polluter cannot be found must be relaxed. In addition, planning policy should steer development towards previously developed land. “

Co-written by Nick Smith, partner, Brachers


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