With all the political upheaval of the past few months, an announcement made in March might sound like ancient history by now.
But one such announcement formed the precursor to a major government investment drive in housebuilding.
The brownfield register, launched by two now-former ministers – housing minister Brandon Lewis and communities secretary Greg Clark – prompted little fanfare from the construction industry when it was launched earlier this year.
But looking back, it seems a much more significant announcement than was acknowledged at the time.
The concept was simple: 73 councils across England form a pilot scheme to list all the brownfield land within their local area in one place.
This was intended to help government gather information from across England to encourage development and inform future policy.
And it’s already started to inform the rejigged government, with new communities secretary Sajid Javid announcing a £2bn fund for speeding up delivery on brownfield land.
Most importantly for contractors, the government will enable planning permission in principle for housing developments on sites listed in the pilot brownfield registers.
But like many other government policies, the registers aren’t perfect.
Before developers and contractors start thinking that there are vast tracts of brownfield land just waiting to be snapped up and built on, the reality is that most of the plots listed in the pilot registers to date are on the small side.
In fact, many cover less than a hectare – hardly sites that would help tackle a housing shortage and make developers a profit, that’s for sure.
But then, contractors and developers have always found ways to make the best of government policy – and the brownfield register is no different.
Clients and contractors have taken to drawing together land from different councils’ registers into packages – meaning that one contractor or development partner would be in the position to develop all brownfield land within the package, rather than taking each site individually.
This makes it easier for both client and contractor, with a more joined-up approach allowing more homes to be built in a more efficient way, even on some sites that otherwise would be seen as undevelopable.
What’s clear is that the new registers offer a great opportunity for contractors and developers to build homes on brownfield sites.
And with the government signalling its willingness to get behind brownfield builds, there’s no better time than now.
You can read the full analysis of how to get the most out of the new brownfield registers here.
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