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Opinion: Houses not always the solution for brownfield land

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Opinion: Houses not always the solution for brownfield land

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Development

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By Matthew Bradbury, director of operations, the Land Trust

The Land Trust has joined the debate about whether the fast increase in new housing development is a threat to the natural environment, sparked by a Glenigan report published in The Telegraph.

This is not a matter of either new homes OR good quality natural environment – we have to deliver both. It’s also not a matter of brownfield versus greenfield, as suggested by some.

The real solution will involve a complex range of options. It’s true to say that we should be focussing on improving brownfield land, as the cost to communities of leaving it as brownfield can be significant – it impacts on health, anti-social behaviour and many more aspects of our quality of life.

But to suggest that the housing crisis can be solved by building on brownfield land alone is both naive and unrealistic.

There are two key considerations here – firstly, not all brownfield land can be built on and secondly, it’s not always in the location where people want to live and work. Brownfield land can be reasonably easily restored into good quality green open spaces that can really enhance a local area.

This can create a net gain for green open space, whilst at the same time, allowing councils to build houses where people actually want to live. In some cases, building on a greenfield site provides the opportunity to create even more green space as part of the new housing development.

This may come at the cost of some low quality agricultural land, (we do not advocate building on important greenfield, such as ancient woodland etc) but surely this is better than cramming everyone together, in one concrete jungle, creating the slums of the future, and then having unused and inaccessible green space somewhere else entirely.

At the Land Trust we believe that if the housing needs in the UK are to be addressed, a pragmatic solution is needed and that a combined, strategic approach can deliver the most harmonious solutions for communities, biodiversity and businesses.

The Land Trust model has been successful on a number of sites, where brownfield land has been brought back into public use and managed as green open spaces. This has then improved health, social cohesion and created economic benefits for the local community, as well as reducing anti-social behaviour and has even helped to sell houses.

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