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New planning reforms to revolutionise brownfield development in England

New planning reforms to revolutionise brownfield development in England

In a bold move aimed at revolutionising the housing sector, the UK government announced a significant overhaul of planning rules on 13 February 2024, designed to spur the development of homes on brownfield land while safeguarding the Green Belt. The initiative underscores the government's commitment to increasing housebuilding in urban areas, with a specific focus on utilising previously developed brownfield sites.


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak elaborated on the government's strategy, stating, "We pledged to build the right homes in the right places – protecting our precious countryside and building more in urban areas where demand is highest. Today’s package is us delivering on that." Sunak's remarks highlight the government's intention to not only meet but surpass its housing targets, ensuring the delivery of a diverse range of homes across England.


The new policies mandate that every council in England prioritise brownfield development, with a significant reduction in bureaucratic hurdles that have previously impeded such projects. Particularly in England’s 20 largest cities and towns, planning authorities will adopt a 'brownfield presumption,' especially if housebuilding falls below expected levels. This presumption aims to facilitate the approval process for brownfield site development, thereby enabling more young families to secure homes.


Housing Secretary Michael Gove underscored the importance of the reforms, stating, "Our new brownfield presumption will tackle underdelivery in our key towns and cities – where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth." Gove's comments reflect the government's broader strategy to foster urban regeneration without compromising the integrity of the countryside and Green Belt.


The announcement follows a period of robust housing development, with the government delivering the highest number of new homes in a year for the past three decades. The reforms are anticipated to provide developers with greater certainty and streamline the regeneration of brownfield sites, potentially unlocking up to 11,500 additional homes per year in London alone, according to analysis from the London Plan Review.


A consultation on the proposed changes commenced on 13 February and will run until 26 March, with the government eager to implement these amendments to national planning policy swiftly.


Industry leaders have welcomed the reforms. Mark Allan, Chief Executive of Landsec, praised the focus on maximising housing development in urban areas, recognising the opportunity to deliver more homes and secure better outcomes for cities. Similarly, David Thomas, Chief Executive of Barratt Developments, emphasised the positive impact of simplifying the planning permission process for brownfield regeneration.


The government's initiative represents a comprehensive effort to address the housing shortage, leveraging brownfield sites to meet the growing demand for homes without encroaching on green spaces. With a strategic focus on urban regeneration, the reforms aim to create sustainable, thriving communities across England.

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