The Government’s pledge to get Britain building backed up by new measures in the Housing & Planning Act 2016 and the Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2017 means the demand for developable land is increasing.
Pressures to avoid greenfield development and a need to regenerate and bring new life to town centres means the potential of brownfield and previously used land must be maximised.
However, obstacles such as complicated or unclear ownership can make land purchase difficult, coupled with physical challenges such as contamination and lack of infrastructure, and the viability of brownfield sites is significantly reduced, hindering or preventing their redevelopment.
So, how can you reduce the risks and potential costs to increase investor and developer interest and maximise brownfield viability?
This was the topic of a recent conference organised by Brownfield Briefing, which brought together policy makers, regulators, developers and other stakeholders to discuss the implications of new planning tools, effectively undertaking brownfield viability assessments, new financing mechanisms, and developing successful partnerships to maximise growth and delivery.
Ian Mercer, partner and head of development at Bruton Knowles, was invited to speak at the conference on the subject of ‘the extent brownfield registers and ‘Permission in Principle’ (PiP) can effectively identify potential land and facilitate its development’.
During his presentation, Ian examined the extent to which the new regulations on brownfield register and PiP could more effectively generate housing on previously developed land.
In summary, and through a case study for Wolverhampton City Council, Ian considered that a well prepared brownfield register was an effective tool in identifying future land supply, while PiP is yet to be proven.
Following Ian’s presentation, there was a Q&A session. Here are some of the questions.
Q. How effective is the register in minimising the risk associated with developing brownfield or contaminated sites?
A. Preparation of register is likely to highlight the possibility of risk, but it will not minimise it. The site will either be remediated during the process of preparing it for redevelopment, with confirmation of proof provided as part of the technical application, or a condition to be discharged.
Q. What safeguards will be put in place for ensuring contamination is adequately and correctly risk assessed?
A. Proof of the removal of contaminates and treatment of the site should be provided as part of the technical details consent or be a condition of the same.
Q. Will the register provide developers with the information they really need?
A. Up to a point, but in reality will developers really buy land off a register on an unconditional basis? They may do with permission to build, with issues resolved and site de-risked.
Q. Where do responsibilities lie with regards to listing and assessing sites on the register? Who is responsible for Phase 1 risk assessments given PiP?
A. The LPA on the first point, it would seem. On the second, a LPA may undertake a level of Phase 1 work as a general indication of the deliverability of a number of sites to determine relative risk. Equally, the site owner may undertake this work as well.
Q. Who decides if a site is viable for development?
A. Ultimately the interest providing the risk capital, notwithstanding the various matters to be agreed, such as s106 obligations.
Q. How will sites identified on brownfield registers, but classed to be of high environmental value, be dealt with?
A. Such sites are exempt from PiP, thus if ‘screening’ determines the need for EIA, have to follow regulations and traditional route to secure a full planning permission.