THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE: How to get planning permission for new homes on a brownfield site

As more development is carried out on greenfield sites, there is growing pressure to build more new homes on brownfield sites. But how do you go about doing that? This post explains.

What is brownfield land?

Brownfield land is really shorthand for the planning term “Previously Developed Land”. In simple terms, that refers to any piece of land that has (or did have) buildings on it. There are some exceptions to this though. In a strict planning sense, for example, back gardens and farm buildings don’t count as previously developed.

The vast majority of brownfield sites are ones that were in some type of employment generating use – whether that was a warehouse, factory, office or storage yard.

First check the Local Plan

Like in most cases, the first thing to do is to check the Local Plan for the area.

The Local Plan will include a proposals map showing what sort of development is allowed in different places. For example, lots of brownfield sites are protected for uses that generate employment – those warehouses, factories, offices and storage yards again. Some of them might be identified as being suitable for housing development though, which would mean you can submit a planning application straight away with some confidence.

The Local Plan also includes a written statement with more detailed policies. For example, if your site was last used for an employment generating purpose but isn’t identified for any specific use, the written statement will often try to protect the site so it can only be developed for new employment uses. It might also explain the circumstances in which applications for other types of uses would be acceptable.

Does the Local Plan reflect National Policy?

If your site is protected for an employment generating use, that doesn’t mean that a residential planning permission won’t be granted. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out national policies which the Local Plan is supposed to reflect.

One of those policies says that Local Plans should “avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose.” To show that there is “no reasonable prospect” of a new employment use on your site, you usually need to prove there is no market demand . That typically involves marketing it for sale at a realistic asking price for at least a year, if not more. On top of that, you often need to show that a redevelopment of the site for a different employment use wouldn’t be commercially viable either.

If you can pass those tests, it is can be possible to get councils to support planning applications for new homes even on sites that they would much prefer were used for a different purpose.

Can you change the policy?

It might also be possible to change the policy designation of your site for another one that would be more likely to allow a redevelopment for housing. Local Plans cover a specific period of time and so occasionally need replacing. When a new Plan is being prepared, the council should consider whether their preferred use for your site is still the same. There is an opportunity to submit evidence to the council explaining why a different use for the site would be more appropriate. We’ve explained in more detail how to go about that in a previous blog post.

It isn’t just about the land use

From reading the news, you might think that getting planning permission on a brownfield site was easy. That usually isn’t the case though. Sometimes you need to work hard to prove to the council that the best use of a brownfield site is to redevelop it for new homes. Even once the council support housing development in principle, the usual hurdles to getting planning permission still need to be cleared. You still need to give details to the council on highways, ecology, noise, ground contamination, landscape design, air quality, heritage, flood risk and many other areas.

Land promotion isn’t just something that works on greenfield sites. It works on brownfield sites too.

As a specialist planning promoter, The Strategic Land Group can take your site through the planning process dealing with all of those challenges on your behalf. We set the planning strategy, manage its delivery and even find a buyer for the site once permission is granted. We do that entirely at our cost and risk – if we don’t succeed, it doesn’t cost you anything. Our return is simply a share of the value of the site once it is sold.

If you have a site where you think our approach might be of benefit, get in touch today to discuss it with us on a strictly confidential basis.

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