EIC calls for greenfield surcharge to revive brownfield development

A new report from the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) has urged for a greenfield surcharge in a bid to encourage more brownfield development.


A ‘greenfield surcharge’ is among a series of practical proposals in the ‘Brownfield first: Supporting levelling up’ paper to encourage future brownfield development, which would see the funds earmarked by local authorities for infrastructure spending to help mitigate the higher development costs often associated with brownfield.

EIC argues that brownfield development can help meet the government’s housing ambitions, but further planning reforms, tax reliefs and development incentives are needed.  

The research highlights that, in 2014, 40% of new residential projects in England was on land that had already been developed, and that this proportion has dropped to 20% in 2018.

Economies of scale, technical complexities, and additional costs and uncertainties were all listed as contributing factors.

The report found that more than 20,000 sites are currently on local authority brownfield registers, enough for over one million homes.

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at EIC, said: “Our analysis shows that developers are making significantly less use of brownfield, yet there is huge potential for it to deliver ambitions around levelling up. 

“Not only can it help find the space for 300,000 homes a year, but it can also funnel new investment to those traditionally underfunded post-industrial towns, cities and communities.

“Our practical, common-sense proposal around a greenfield surcharge would revitalise brownfield development, help to deliver homes, and ensure that we are making the most of this chronically underused asset.”

Bob Blackman, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Building Communities — which brings together politicians and the industry to encourage placemaking — commented that there was a huge opportunity to revitalise communities. 

“The report’s proposals present a series of common-sense recommendations which could help us realise brownfield’s potential.”

The report seeks improvements to the economic viability of marginal brownfield projects by increasing land remediation tax relief on sites with fewer than 25 units, and to update the definition of derelict land to incorporate all sites that have been abandoned for more than a decade.

It also argues that new funding earmarked for levelling-up, either through the new National Infrastructure Bank or the Levelling Up Fund, should specifically favour brownfield proposals over greenfield ones.

In addition, it urges for the adoption of the Construction Leadership Council’s recommendations for longer-term regeneration zones to support redevelopment on complex sites.

Peter Atchison, chair of the EIC contaminated land working group, and director at PAGeoTechnical, added: “Despite inspiring high-profile examples of brownfield development, such as the former Olympic Park in the east end of London, developers are making less use of brownfield than before. 

“Our recommendations aim to revitalise this sector and place it as the realistic alternative to building on greenfield sites.”

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