The government has cut funding to make brownfield sites appropriate for construction, it has emerged…
MPs on the environmental audit committee have warned funding aimed at preparing brownfield sites for housing developments will be phased out next year.
Brownfield land has been touted by the government as a way of solving the housing crisis and of meeting their one million homes by 2020 target so this news will undoubtedly come as a surprise to the sector. In fact, there has been a considerable push by the government to ensure brownfield sites are utilised across the country.
Brownfield certainly does have the ability to unlock new housing potential. Some 300,000 hectares of contaminated land has been earmarked as suitable for housing, farmland, industry or other developments. This could not only helps with the nation’s current housing crisis, but also prevent further encroachment into green belt or agricultural land for building.
Brownfield is land that has been previously used for industrial or commercial purposes. As such it must undergo remediation before it can used for residential means. Remediation involves removing potentially dangerous toxins left behind in the soil.
Currently, the cost of this falls to the government and local authorities. Funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has already fallen from £17.5m in 2009-10 to £2m in 2013-14. By 2017 the funding will be cut completely. This loss of this funding will deter many developers from building, particularly in less affluent areas.
Committee chair Mary Creagh spoke to the Guardian. She said: “If your main concern is brownfield sites for housebuilding then this is very problematic. It’s a very worrying decision.”
The MPs report also warned that failing to properly clean up brownfield sites could leave behind dangerous toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, asbestos and tar, which could impact health. The committee also said Defra’s decision to withdraw funding could prevent local authorities from meeting statutory duties to safeguard the environment.
Creagh added: “Society relies on healthy soil for the food we eat, for flood prevention, and for storing carbon.
“The government says it wants our soil to be managed sustainably by 2030, but there is no evidence that it is putting in place the policies to make this happen.”
A spokeswoman for Defra said: “The health of our soils is vital to the food we eat, the air we breathe and to our precious habitats and our 25-year plan for action on the environment will set out a comprehensive, long-term vision to protect and enhance our natural environment for generations to come.
“The national planning policy framework sets out clear requirements for new housing developments facing land contamination to be cleared up.”