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Brownfield fund needed to aid investment

Stuart Spear11/01/2017 - 15:47

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Funds are needed to tackle brownfield sites
Funds are needed to tackle brownfield sites

Environmental lobby groups including the CIEH are calling for a rethink to building on brownfield sites as political pressure grows to bolster the UK infrastructure.

The recommendations are outlined in a new report A sustainable stimulus programmepublished by Smart Group a national coalition pursuing sustainable communities.

The group is calling for the establishment of brownfield funds in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland offering a mix of loans and capital grants for brownfield housing work.

The report points out that while loans may work in areas where the value of brownfield development provides a return for investors, grants must be made available where land values to not provide developers with an incentive to remediate.

The need for a new funding stream has become particularly acute with the demise later this year of contaminated land capital grant funding available to local authorities for the identification and remediation of contaminated land. The funding has been in terminal decline since 2013.

 The report is picking up on cross party agreement on the need for investment in infrastructure as an economic stimulant in the UK’s post Brexit economy.

In the 2016 Autumn Statement chancellor Philip Hammond promised 1 to 2 per cent of GDP investment every year from 2020 along with £23 billion over the next five years in a new National Productivity Investment Fund.

The government has also announced plans to set up a brownfield fund with further details expected in the forthcoming housing white paper.

‘The Treasure has finally accepted after many years that if you are going to maximise housebuilding you are going to have to maximise brownfield house building and that has been a big change in the last year,’ said the report editor Jon Reed.

‘We believe there has to be a grant element and they need to fund the difficult sites where nobody is proposing to redevelop through Part 2A.’

The Treasury has previously been resistant to brownfield encouraging building on greenfield development. The sea change has been as a result of increased pressure for more housing.

Howard Price, CIEH principal policy officer and contributor to the report said: ‘It’s become ever more apparent in recent years how relevant planning is to environmental health and consequently, as planning departments have shrunk, how important it is for EHPs to understand and support the planning process not only at the level of individual decisions but strategically.’

The report also highlights the benefits that historic towns and sites can bring to regeneration with historic site creating a stimulus to regeneration as well as calling for investment in sustainable transport.

Smart Group is an informal coalition of individuals and NGOs including the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group, British Land Reclamation Society, CIEH, Environmental Protection UK and Transport for Quality of Life.  

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