The Commission was surprised and encouraged at the scale of ambition and degree of innovation in many local planning and housing departments. We heard of councils with long-term strategies to promote housing growth and of intelligent and progressive uses of their assets, powers and finances. While the picture is admittedly still mixed, there is a role for local authorities to not only become advocates of new development but investors leading and overseeing its success.
Supplying the land We know that land for 400,000 homes has planning permission and is waiting for development. We also know there is enough brownfield land for 1.5 million homes,111 with more becoming available every year. The Commission believes that local authorities can use their Plans to identify sustainable brownfield land in every city and large town to accommodate many of the new homes we need. Outside the cities and towns developments should be relatively small — perhaps 25-50 homes, large enough to keep the local primary school and post office open — so that they could be built by local contractors. We were impressed by the views of Berkeley Group, who offered one route for expanding village housing: “However attractive a village might be, each village tends to have a less attractive side which could lend itself to a modest expansion of housing. Such an expansion might be for, say, 30 units of which 50% would be affordable with a very low or nil land value. This would enable the young people of that village to remain and live in the location in which they were brought up… With no land cost the houses could be produced at a figure of c. £100,000 which would make them properly affordable.
111_ Building in a small island: why we still need the brownfield first approach, CPRE, 2011
Bermondsey Spa, London © Levitt Bernstein and Hyde Group. Photographer Tim Crocker