The countryside charity CPRE has looked at councils’ registers of brownfield land and found that over 1.2 million homes could be built on 23,000 sites covering more than 27,000 hectares of previously developed land.
In addition, it discovered that just 45% of available housing units have been granted planning consent and 550,000 homes with planning permission are still awaiting development.
Tom Fyans, the interim chief executive of CPRE, commented: “You know the system is broken when hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and families are on social housing waiting lists, many in rural areas.
“Meanwhile, across the country, tens of thousands of hectares of prime brownfield sites are sitting there waiting to be redeveloped.”
Former industrial heartlands in the north of England were the worst areas for unused brownfield sites. The proportion of available housing units with planning permission is 33% in the North West, 36% in the West Midlands and 40% in Yorkshire and the Humber, the latter of which has enough brownfield sites to build 115,000 homes.
In the South West, where evidence suggests local people cannot afford to rent or buy, in a crisis worsened by a rise in second-home owners, there is capacity to build 71,000 homes on brownfield sites, 56% of which have planning permission.
Fyans said investing in brownfield regeneration would help significant boost new housing supply.
He added: “The only solution is a commitment to building hundreds of thousands of new homes available at social rents or sold at affordable prices linked to local wages. Investing in brownfield regeneration would have a transformative effect. Done with consideration, such developments breathe new life into communities while also building the homes local people actually need alongside existing infrastructure such as public transport, schools and shops.”
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