Brownfield development and Big Data
Brownfield is one of the UK government's key initiatives aimed at boosting house building but big data will be critical in the decision to build, says Landmark Information Group's William Kirk. (Sponsored Content)
Report from – William Kirk (Landmark Information Group)
Meeting increased housing demand through building on brownfield land has been a topical theme in the development sector over recent years. While policies of ‘brownfield first’ and government targets for new housing development were abandoned at the start of the decade, a raft of new policies and interventions are now in the process of being rolled out.
Some have been more controversial than others, however they are all ultimately designed to increase the volume of house building in England. We have heard of ‘Garden Cities’, ‘Housing Zones’ and ‘Transport Hubs’ as new initiatives. In addition, the planning process is currently being rewritten to speed up the housebuilding process with measures such as Permission in Principle (PIP) for new housing.
These measures have been underpinned by a vast array of fiscal incentives, from grants to equity finance in supporting intervention for sites that would have otherwise not been viable.
The initial policies and strategies were aimed at brownfield land to support increased utilisation of underused, derelict or vacant land as opposed to developing new greenfield sites. However, recent changes have raised some serious questions about policy direction. A pertinent example is the Housing and Planning Bill currently running through the House of Lords, which has now been amended so that PIP now also includes greenfield land.
The rate of housebuilding has picked up slightly from an all time low, currently at 140,000 houses per year as compared to the heights of the 1970s when over 300,000 houses a year were more the norm. The previous Labour government had targets of building one million new homes or 240,000 houses per year on brownfield and set up English Partnerships (now the Homes and Communities Agency), Regional Development Agencies and the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder programme backed up by £6 Bn of grant funding to achieve this.
This certainly pushed housing completions up to around 220,000 houses per year. However, the latest housing decline fuelled the recession, which has seen some recovery in the past two years. New numbers are being tenuously proposed for a million new homes by 2020, at least 200,000 new homes per year, with 90% of all brownfield land having a Local Development Order (PIP) by 2020. These numbers appear to have some fluidity.
House building rates, February 2016 (Department for Communities and Local Government)
To promote the utilisation of brownfield land for housing development, the government is proposing ‘Brownfield Registers’ and more than 70 local authorities are currently developing a pilot register. This is intended to show available brownfield land that is suitable and viable for housing development and meets the requirements for PIP. The Register will be limited to sites with five dwellings or 0.25ha in size. A ‘Small Sites Register’ is proposed for all sites that are less than 0.25ha in size. Any site with PIP will still have to fulfil a planning requirement for a Technical Details Consent (TDC).
There are a great number of questions that arise from current policy, strategy, guidance and proposals. Fundamentally, how do we achieve the goals of increased house building while learning the mistakes of past generations and avoiding urban sprawl? Are we really building communities, which are sustainable and healthy, or will we be demolishing these houses in the next decade, still satisfied that we met our targets or propped up the economy in the short term, while edging ourselves closer to the next cyclical collapse?
We always seem to come close to answering some of the fundamental questions, but the ‘tail ends up wagging the dog’ and all gets lost in the fog of war.
So, what is needed? Can we get closer to better solutions?
Landmark Information Group, which is sponsoring City Regeneration, has been at the forefront of exploring how big data can be used to support evidence based and defensible decision-making processes to inform housing development. We supply over 75,000 reports every month to clients wishing to know more about constraints and hazards relating to housing and land development. This includes contaminated land, flooding, planning, subsidence and radon. We are now exploring solutions to support effective decision-making processes on housing development. These solutions are required in government, throughout the planning process, and to support effective asset management.
What should this solution look like? We’re hoping to collaboratively develop it alongside our client requirements. We have the data, tools and technology to build these solutions, and we’re keen to listen.
The team from Landmark will be exploring the topic of data and its application in support decision-making processes for housing development on brownfield land, with some early proof of concepts and new technologies being demonstrated at the forthcoming City Regeneration conference.
William Kirk is Head of Asset Management at Landmark Information Group, which identifies and translates environmental and property risk into facts, insight and opportunity. With data, technology and our team of experts at the heart of what we do, we deliver intelligence and solutions to enable you to make informed decisions.
If you want to find out more about the risks and opportunities for brownfield development, then you might be interested in attending the City Regeneration conference on 24 June.
This one day conference, sponsored by Landmark Information Group and K&L Gates, will explore what brownfield land development means for planning authorities and developers, examining issues around the effective use of data and mapping, environmental risk and financial viability. It will also seek to create the case for developing more sustainable and connected communities supported by effective infrastructure.
When: 24 June, 2016
Where: K&L Gates, One New Change, London (Watling Street entrance)