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Petition Prioritise brownfield development in law to protect our green belt and farmland

Enshrine in law all brown field sites to be fully developed within a 25 mile radius of green belt or farmland before any development is allowed on non-brownfield land. Ensure in law the democratic wishes of local residents and local authorities as a precedent and limit ministerial powers to suit.

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The Government has a duty to protect the environment against climate change, protect local areas of outstanding beauty and natural habitat. Preserve todays biodiversity and bio abundance for the generation of tomorrow. Nature and wildlife is at threat of extinction at the detriment of unnecessary housing development and where today's generation may still have the benefit of existing wildlife tomorrow's generation will only have the benefit of wildlife pictures.

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Government responded

This response was given on 3 June 2021

The Government has no plans to introduce a legal requirement that all brownfield sites are fully developed before any development is allowed on non-brownfield land.

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This Government is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change. This commitment is stated in the National Planning Policy Framework and supporting guidance, to which all local planning authorities should have regard when drawing up local plans, or determining planning applications. The Framework expects local authorities to not only protect landscapes, soils and sites of biodiversity but go further by enhancing these valued surroundings. The Framework also outlines that the character and beauty of the countryside, including trees and woodland, should be recognised in the planning of future development. Strong protections are in place for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other designated land. The Government will continue to apply policy and law as appropriate to prevent harm to wildlife-rich habitat, and to restrict development in open countryside.

The Government is also committed to making the most of brownfield land. The Framework strongly encourages regeneration and re-use of brownfield, especially for housing - helping to level up communities across the country while taking off some of the pressure to consider other land, such as Green Belt, for new homes. The Framework expects local authorities to give substantial weight to re-using suitable brownfield when Plan-making or deciding planning applications. These sites should be given priority where practical and viable, and local authorities should consider building up, and higher densities in towns.

However:

- the term ‘brownfield’ comprises almost all types of previously developed land, including inhabited housing and land occupied by functioning businesses and industry;
- not all vacant brownfield is in the right place for sustainable residential use;
- some is valuable for ecology;
- some has high upfront costs for demolition or decontamination;
- each local authority is already required by law to publish a register of brownfield land in its area that would be suitable for housing-led development;
- not all owners will wish to develop or release sites, for different reasons; and
- the rules on compulsory purchase of building sites are strict, and generally require compensation for the owner, reflecting the current land value.

Elected local authorities are responsible for deciding the right location and type of sustainable future development in each area, in accordance with national policies in the Framework. Rightly, planning decisions are not made on the basis of the number of objectors or supporters. Instead, each local authority is responsible for preparing a vision for future development in its area using a Local Plan. The Local Plan outlines how land should be used and takes account of any necessary restraints on development. The Plan is created in consultation with the local community, and submitted for rigorous independent examination by a planning inspector. If the Plan is judged to be properly prepared, justified, and consistent with national policy in the Framework, it can come into effect.

The Government is clear that to help make home ownership affordable for more people, and help more people rent their own home, we need to deliver more homes. To get enough homes built in the places where people and communities need them, a crucial first step is to plan for the right number of homes. Local housing need introduced in 2018 is a measure of an area’s housing need, against which councils must then consider their local circumstances and supply pipeline. Local authorities draw up a local housing target, taking into account factors including land availability and environmental constraints such as Green Belt. Following consultation to changes to the method (from August to October 2020) on 16 December 2020 we changed the formula to increase need in the 20 most populated urban areas.

Protecting the Green Belt remains a priority and our national planning policy reinforces regenerating previously developed land, known as brownfield sites, and prioritising urban areas. The uplift in local housing needed within our biggest cities and urban centres in England will direct homes to where they are better served by infrastructure, and therefore protect our countryside. It also supports our wider objectives of regenerating brownfield sites, renewal, and levelling up. Green Belt decisions as outlined above will remain with local authorities and communities, ensuring they have influence over development, location and design.

While continuing to apply strong policies to limit harm to Green Belt and the countryside, this Government is encouraging local authorities to make the most of their brownfield land. We are providing extensive financial support for this. For example, in 2020 the Prime Minister announced that seven Mayoral Combined Authorities would receive a share of the £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund. This will help unlock 26,000 homes across England by bringing under-utilised brownfield land back into use. In addition we are investing £75 million in a Brownfield Land Release Fund for authorities not eligible for the Brownfield Housing Fund. This is new capital funding to accelerate release of local authority-owned land for housing. The Brownfield Land Release Fund is expected to release land for 7,000 homes by 2024.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

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