Brownfield Land Registers – A new route to permission for housing-led schemes

Policy Update
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Following the introduction of new Regulations earlier this month, the Government has now published guidance explaining how LPAs should prepare and manage their Brownfield Land Registers (BLR).

Local authorities are now expected to compile a Register of brownfield land that is suitable for residential development by 31 December 2017.

The new BLR will comprise two parts:

–  Part 1 will list previously developed land with an area of at least 0.25ha, (or land which is capable of supporting at least 5 dwellings) that is ‘suitable’ and ‘available’ for residential development, and where residential development is ‘achievable’. The Regulations define these terms – for example ‘achievable’ means that, in the opinion of the LPA, the development will take place within 15 years.

–  Part 2 will list land which the LPA has decided to allocate for residential development following prescribed publication and consultation procedures.

Entries in the BLR need to specify “the minimum and maximum net number of dwellings, given as a range, which in the authority’s opinion, the land is capable of supporting” and “where the development includes non-housing development, the scale of any such development and the use to which it is to be put“.

Permission in Principle (PiP) will automatically be granted for five years for development of land allocated in Part 2 of the BLR, subject to some exceptions.  Once PiP is granted, technical detailed consent will be needed to implement it and conditions may be attached.  The idea is that the principle of allowing a specified amount of housing on a site is established through the granting of PiP and that this is separated from the associated technical issues to give developers more certainty and reduce delays.

The benefit of PiP is that is aims to avoid developers having to expend significant time and cost prior to achieving certainty that a development will be able to go ahead. PiP aims to offer an alternative route for providing early certainty on the in-principle matters – use, location and amount of development.

So, for any landowners or developers considering pursuing a housing-led development on a previously developed site, now is certainly a good time to act.  Ensuring a brownfield site is included on Part 1 of the Council’s BLR before the end of the year is an effective step towards establishing the acceptability of the site for housing.  Whilst putting a site on Part 1 of a Register does not mean it will automatically be granted permission is principle, it does mean that it can then go onto be considered for entry onto Part 2 of the register.

The inclusion of a site on Part 1 of a BRL will require the submission of some supporting information to secure reference to an appropriate scale of development, but this is likely to be much more limited than the often substantial amounts of information required as part of an outline planning application. Putting a site forward for inclusion on Part 1 of a BRL would also not prevent a planning application or local plan allocation being pursued alongside, or at a later date.

The government intends to publish statutory guidance to explain their policy for BLRs in more detail by Summer 2017. In the meantime, many authorities will be keen to publish their BLR’s given the December deadline, and the 73 authorities who have already piloted the preparation of the Registers will have a good head start.

If you would like to discuss a specific brownfield site or any of the above, please feel free to contact one of the Firstplan team.  The Government guidance can be found here.