Opposition MPs attack brownfield development

A Labour and an SNP MP have attacked the Government’s newly discovered enthusiasm for brownfield in the Commons

Opposition MPs have lined up to attack the Government’s newly discovered enthusiasm for building on brownfield land.  In an exchange of views at communities question time on 14 September, four Conservative backbenchers asked about support for brownfield land.  It was such backbenchers – and electors – who brought about the Party’s abrupt change of direction on brownfield pre-election and communities minister James Wharton was quick to stress Government support.

“We intend to create a fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing,” he said.  “We will continue to support the regeneration of brownfield land through a range of measures, including announcing up to £400m to create housing zones.”

The four MPs gave examples from their constituencies of threats or opportunities on brownfield land, but though Mr Wharton was quick to stress the £1bn, he gave little away about registers or “automatic planning permission”.

But opposition MPs have also changed their tune since the election, and a change of leadership.  Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman said there is a national housing crisis.

“He will not get anywhere with the illusion that that can all be dealt with through brownfield land,” he said.  “Brownfield land is often very expensive and in the wrong place. This Government will not acknowledge that we must build on greenfield to provide the homes that we need, but they do not like it: they are terrified of their constituents.”

Mr Wharton said listening to constituents is an important part of the planning process and public sector brownfield land is being released.  And he told Glasgow Central SNP MP Alison Thewliss that he had no figures on the cost of remediating contaminated sites, although the fund would help.

But Ms Thewliss also launched a brownfield attack.  “I will help the minister out here – I have some figures to hand,” she said.

“The cost of remediating brownfield land can range from £50,000 per hectare to over £1.7m per hectare for the most contaminated land. Does he believe that the fund he proposes will be adequate to deal with brownfield land? The reason such land is brownfield, derelict and unused is that it can be difficult to remediate. In the east end of Glasgow, 350ha of brownfield land need remediation. How far will the fund go?

Mr Wharton said a £1bn fund would go a long way and make a real difference.  Source: Brownfield Briefing

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