Can Infill Development Solve the Housing Shortage?

The debate continues over how best to meet Britain`s housing shortage. Large-scale developments on the edge of towns and villages are popular with house-builders on the basis of cost and practicality, but less so from environmentalists who see them as encroaching on our precious green spaces. Likewise residents complain that these projects can fundamentally alter the identity of their town and put pressure on local infrastructure, leading to increased demand for school places and medical services, as well as traffic and transport problems. Two local examples are the on-going plans to build on green belt land at Simonshyde Farm, north-east of St Albans, and the development of the Smallford Campus on Hatfield Road, which began recently.

An alternative to these large-scale projects is the re-development of disused or under-used “brownfield” sites within already built-up areas. These can range from old factory or warehouse sites such as the Beaumont Works, a former clothing factory on Sutton Road in Fleetville, St Albans, to smaller plots like the disused garages at Partridge Road in St Albans, which have both been granted planning permission for housing development. Further down the scale many people will have noticed the increase in localised infill developments, where large or well-sited older residential properties are being demolished to make way for higher-density schemes which maximise the number of homes or apartments which can be fitted into the site. In other instances adjoining properties sharing large rear gardens can join together to create building plots, sometimes for just a single property to be built.

In the White Paper on housing published in February, 2017, Government figures state that Britain should be building between 225,000 and 275,000 new homes per year to keep up with demand and make up for past shortfalls. The reality is that in 2015-16 fewer than 190,000 new homes came on to the market. Planning reforms in 2012 mean that it is now much easier for developers to build on Green Belt land and open countryside, and current proposals to add up to 300,000 properties in these green spaces are up for discussion under Local Authority Local Plans.

However, the Campaign to Protect Rural England claims that this encroachment into the countryside is unnecessary given the number of brownfield sites available nationally. Their study in 2014 identified brownfield areas where over 960,000 homes could be built. More recently the CPRE`s analysis of the government`s own Brownfield Registers, compiled from figures provided by 53 local authorities, identified brownfield sites where at least 1 million new properties could be built, the equivalent of 4 years` worth of demand for new homes.

Whatever the outcome of these long-running planning issues, you can be sure that we`ll be hearing plenty more stories about battles between developers and builders on one side, and environmentalists and “nimbys” on the other, with Local Authorities in the middle trying to balance local objections and Government targets. But as current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid says in the White Paper:  “The housing market has taken decades to reach the state it`s now in. Turning it around won`t be quick or easy. But it can be done. It must be done.”

To read the housing White Paper in full go to:  Fixing our broken housing market

For information on the CPRE and brownfield sites go to: Campaign to Protect Rural England

If you are buying or selling residential property – whether or not it’s part of a new development – please contact Anne McCarthy of Bretherton Law 01727 869293 We provide fixed fee quotes for a bespoke conveyancing service and we always focus on providing excellent client care.

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