What is the new planning policy for brownfield sites?

An amendment to the Town and Country planning act (General Permitted Development) in 2020 has allowed development of new build houses to benefit from fast-track planning on small brownfield sites.

The official published guidance states that the following criteria should apply:

Owners of vacant and redundant freestanding buildings of a footprint of up to 1000 square metres will be able to fast-track the planning process for demolishing and rebuilding them as new residential developments within the footprint of the original building, up to a maximum height of 18 metres, including up to 2 storeys higher than the former building.

The new development could be a block of flats or a single new family home.’

Please note this new amendment applies in England only and there are exemptions, such as in conservation areas, in National Parks, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, listed buildings and World Heritage Sites.

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Response to the housing shortage

The reform is largely in response to the national housing shortage, allowing brownfield regeneration of our towns and cities through the repurposing of vacant and derelict buildings. This also has the potential to protect Green Belt areas. Another reason for this change was to boost construction and local economies post Covid.


Prior approval to demolish and rebuild vacant buildings

Instead of a full planning application, the new reform allows a landowner to use the prior approval process. This is typically much quicker and less onerous than a full planning application.


What defines a ‘vacant building’ in relation to the brownfield development reform?

It applies to buildings built before 1990 that have been vacant for at least six months. For example:

  • blocks of flats
  • offices
  • research and development
  • light industrial buildings.


What is the Prior Approval process?


The local authority will first consider specified matters such as:

  • provision of natural light into habitable rooms
  • highways
  • risk of flooding
  • design and external appearance
  • impact on neighbouring buildings in terms of privacy and light
  • landscaping
  • methods of demolition and heritage issues.

The local authority will also notify local residents and groups about your application, who can comment on the above specified matters, which will also be taken into consideration.

Just like a planning application, the council can either approve, reject on any of the grounds above or request further information.


How much does brownfield development Prior Approval cost?

£334 application fee for each new dwelling created (up to a maximum of 50 units, and a fixed fee of £16,252 plus £100 for each new dwelling above this).


Identifying brownfield sites

Local authorities should have a brownfield land register that provides ‘up-to-date and consistent information on sites that local authorities consider to be appropriate for residential developmentas stipulated by the government.


Getting professional advice

Using a good architect will give you the best chance of gaining prior approval and their input and prior knowledge can be invaluable in terms of navigating the planning system and provide the best outcome in relation to your brief.


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Emily  Design for Me

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