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Brownfield targets ‘slow down house building’

A government target that requires 60% of new homes to be built on brownfield sites is slowing down house building and restricting growth in urban areas, a think-tank claims.

(Source: www.publicfinance.co.uk, 16 Mar 2010)

According to a Centre for Cities report, published today, councils often meet the national brownfield target requirement by discouraging development on other sites and limiting the total number of properties built locally. The think-tank is calling for the target to be scrapped.

The proportion of new homes built on brownfield sites rose from 56% in 1997 to 80% in 2008, well in excess of the 60% target. But the Centre for Cities argues this policy has led to soaring land and house prices as the supply of land for residential housing dropped.

It says that control over green belts, which cover 13% of England, should be devolved to councils and protection reserved for land with the greatest value.

Centre for Cities chief executive Dermot Finch said:

The decade-long push to build on brownfield has run its course. Over the next decade, local authorities will need new incentives to build houses where they are needed. This also means a fresh look at the green belt. It’s a myth that the entire green belt is a picture postcard rural idyll. A very small slice of it could be used for housing.’

The report, Arrested development: are we building houses in the right places?, says that ‘safeguarding farmland at the city fringe should not be a high priority’.

The centre also dismisses as insufficient Conservative proposals to match council tax receipts on new homes for six years.

‘Incentives should come both by ensuring that a greater share of planning gain goes to the community, and from increasing the share of local government revenue that is locally raised,’ says the report.

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