Brownfield land registers: could do better

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Councils were obliged to have a Brownfield Land register in place by December 2017.

The three north Essex authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring) which propose 42,000 homes in three new ‘garden’ towns on greenfield land, say that brownfield has run out.  It is clear however that much more can be done to ensure that brownfield land is included on a register and in Local Plans.

We have mapped the sites on the registers.  Click here for an interactive version:

North Essex brownfield map



The total number of homes listed on the registers is 4,223 (Braintree 667, Tendring 1288, Colchester 2268).

The map illustrates starkly that there are questions about how the registers are compiled and shows that many brownfield sites are not included.  Just some of these are below:

  • Colchester Borough’s register is narrowly focused on the urban area of Colchester, with only five sites identified outside the town.  What about the smaller towns?  The villages?  And farms – which although not supposed to be in registers, can provide excellent sites for homes.
  • At Marks Tey, where a 24,000-home garden town is proposed on green field land, a large brownfield site does not make it onto the register.
  • Wethersfield airfield, an MOD site in Braintree, does not make it onto the list. Another MOD site, Middlewick Range in Colchester, was first promoted as brownfield, but does not appear on the register. Campaigners argue that this is because it is a recognised wildlife site, much valued and loved locally.  (This does illustrate how not all brownfield is equal).
  • Why are sites which are listed on Braintree’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as previously developed land suitable for a Local Plan not included on the register or in the Plan?  These are shown in grey on the map and could deliver 942 dwellings.
  • In Braintree, a site is shown at Silver End – but only 15 dwellings?  There is a large brownfield site in the village.

Could do much better

What is needed is a far more comprehensive effort by the authorities to prioritise brownfield land.  They have told CAUSE that its up to us to submit sites.   We disagree.  We’re a volunteer-run campaign group.   The councils pay professional planners.   It’s their job.

Three suggestions:

  1. Call for sites.  Hold an annual, well-publicised, call for sites so that the brownfield land registers are complete and up-to-date?
  2. No minimum threshold for site size.
  3. Don’t forget rural areas.  Brownfield is not just about large towns.   It’s about villages and farms, too – and development is much more likely to be welcomed if it is on previously used land.