Brownfield regeneration must be backed by better policy

12th Mar 2015

A new research paper from the CPRE today concludes that better data collection and community engagement hold the key to advancing housing development on brownfield land.

The Better brownfield paper follows a recent pledge from David Cameron to build 200,000 starter homes on brownfield land, as well as Government policy changes aimed at increasing brownfield development. The paper argues that political focus on brownfield has been welcome, but that new homes on brownfield land have often failed to meet the aspirations or needs of communities.

To boost the provision and quality of homes on brownfield, the paper suggests four specific initiatives.

First, we should foster more cooperation between local and national government on collecting information on brownfield sites, such as through the use of a combined index that includes environmental and social factors.

Second, we should introduce a register of suitable small-scale and publicly-owned brownfield sites, complemented by stronger incentives for public-private partnership in their development.

Third, we should implement measures to improve community engagement in planning, such as citizen forums, and to increase custom- and self-build housing on large-scale brownfield sites. Fourth, we should consider full reform of housing density measurements to ensure that new housing is designed for community need.

The report is the third in the Housing Foresight series of papers for CPRE. It is being launched on the day that the Government’s brownfield consultation closes. Both the recent Government announcement on brownfield homes and its consultation have followed a number of high profile funding schemes and policy mechanisms to increase residential development on brownfield land, such as brownfield housing zones supported by local development orders.

Luke Burroughs, policy and research adviser at CPRE and report author, says: “The recent focus on brownfield land from both Government and the opposition is really welcome, but we must work harder to ensure that we build homes communities really need.

“To guarantee that ambitious initiatives don’t just improve the quantity of poor quality housing, we have to empower local authorities to play a greater role in leading brownfield development. A more positive approach to design and location can spur the right kind of housing where people want and can afford to live.”



  1. The report, entitled Better brownfield: ensuring responsive development on previously developed land, is available here.
  2. The Housing Foresight series of papers look at innovative ways to tackle the UK housing crisis. The reports do not set out CPRE’s policy position on housing, but are intended to provoke debate over the future of housing policy. The previous two reports have discussed how to empower small- and medium-sized house builders, and how we can remove obstacles to brownfield development.
  3. The Government’s brownfield consultation, which closes at 11.45 pm on 11 March 2015, can be found here.
  4. See, for example: ‘Areas shortlisted to become England's first housing zones’, Government press release, 8 January 2015.