Enough Brownfield land to build more than 1 million homes

25th Mar 2019

At a time when we are still awaiting the Sheffield Local Plan, and its potential threat to green belt land, a new analysis of councils’ Brownfield Land Registers, published by CPRE, demonstrates the huge potential that building on derelict and vacant land has for the provision of new homes.
In order to provide enough housing in England for everyone who needs it, we must be creative within our finite land. By making use of suitable brownfield sites, the homes we need can be built in the places we need them, while our beautiful countryside is allowed to thrive.

Brownfield sites are also often close to where people already work and live, with infrastructure such as public transport, schools and shops already in place. CPRE has long campaigned for brownfield development to be brought to the top of the planning agenda. We urged the government to introduce regulations that make it compulsory for local planning authorities to publish a list of suitable brownfield sites, and estimates of their capacity for housing. These regulations came into force in April 2017, and we were finally able to definitively analyse the number of identified suitable brownfield sites for housing across the whole of England.

This report measures progress towards achieving the government's aim of ‘making full and efficient use of brownfield land’.

All the sites on the registers have been assessed by local planning authorities as being ‘suitable’ for housing development, having had regard to their environmental, amenity and heritage value.

The analysis highlights that there is space on suitable ‘brownfield land’ – land that has previously been built on, and now sits derelict or vacant – to accommodate more than one million new homes, two-thirds of which are ‘shovel ready’ and could make an immediate contribution to meeting housing need, as they have been confirmed as being deliverable within five years.

Prioritising this land, which councils have shown is ready and waiting to be redeveloped, would not only help to transform run-down areas, and provide more homes, but also prevent the unnecessary loss of precious countryside and green spaces for housing.

Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said:

‘Building on brownfield land presents a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration. It will help to limit the amount of countryside lost to development, and build more homes in areas where people want to live, with infrastructure, amenities and services already in place'.

Many areas across England with high housing need also have a large amount of brownfield land ready for redevelopment. London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified land available for regeneration that would provide almost half a million homes.

In order to make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE is urging the government to introduce a genuine ‘brownfield first’ policy, which ensures that suitable previously developed or under-used land is prioritised for redevelopment over green spaces and countryside. Clearer definitions and guidelines must be given so that the registers act as a true pipeline, identifying all possible brownfield sites and recording their suitability for uses other than housing, including uses that protect the biodiversity or heritage value of sites where applicable.


1. CPRE, State of Brownfield 2019

2. Nb. All the sites on the registers have been assessed by local planning authorities as being ‘suitable’ for housing development, having had regard to their environmental, amenity and heritage value.

3. Key statistics in brownfield registers analysis:

Number of local authorities with a published register


Number of sites identified


Total area (hectares) identified


Minimum housing capacity identified


Minimum housing capacity of deliverable sites


4. Breakdown for new brownfield sites added in the past 12 months:

New sites added since February 2018


Total area (hectares) of new sites added since February 2018


Minimum housing capacity of new sites added since February 2018


*The total housing capacity of registers that have been reviewed in the past 12 months is 822,929 homes. This figure has been used in assessing the proportion of homes that are newly identified.