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Brownfield Sites (Planning)

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

20. What recent representations she has received on the definition of brownfield sites in planning guidance. (92555)

The Department has received a range of representations as part of the consultation on the new planning policy statement 3, which was published in draft last year.

During the Commons debate in the summer, the Minister was sympathetic when many of us said that our constituents believe that brownfield sites should be ex-commercial sites, not the gardens of houses and bungalows, which when built on as so-called brownfield sites completely change the nature of residential areas. In the light of her sympathetic comments, what progress has she made in redefining brownfield sites?

As we said during the debate, we need to build more houses across the country. We also need safeguards against inappropriate development. Many councils have already used those, but we are already strengthening them as part of the draft policy statement that was published last year. We must recognise that, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the definition of brownfield land was introduced in the mid 1980s. I quote:

“It is difficult to imagine how urban gardens could have been separated out in terms of available technology and cost.”

It talks about it being a statistical definition. That quote is from the hon. Gentleman’s party’s campaign document, so it is perhaps inappropriate for him to call for us to change the statistical definition.

Development on brownfield sites is often more difficult because of the former uses of those sites. May I draw the Minister’s attention to the excellent development occurring in my constituency at Warburton on the old railway engineering works, where the historic buildings are being conserved? A difficult site with only one access has been developed and 300 houses have been provided at a high environmental standard. Will my hon. Friend ensure that those lessons are spread?

My hon. Friend is right. There are some excellent examples of development on brownfield land to high environmental standards but also with affordable housing. English Partnerships often plays a leading role in working with local authorities to bring former industrial and commercial sites back into use so that we can build new homes for the future.