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Brownfield first – space for 6,633 homes on recycled land in Somerset

Becky Collier
By Becky Collier
4th January 2023

Here in Somerset, and across England, there is massive potential to develop new housing on brownfield land – yet developers keep building new housing on our green fields.


CPRE’s new report – State of Brownfield 2022 shows that the number of new homes that could be built on brownfield land has reached record levels.

Read the report

To help address a growing housing crisis, over 1.2 million homes could be built on 23,000 sites covering more than 27,000ha. of previously developed land across England. Without destroying any more greenfield land!

Even in a rural county like Somerset, there is space to build up to 6,633 homes on brownfield land.

Across England, just 45% of available housing units have planning permission. That’s 550,000 homes that have planning permission but have not been built yet. Here in Somerset, the figure is better at 65%.  However, that still means that 35% of our brownfield land, capable of delivering 2336 homes, is lying unused. 

CPRE Somerset Chair, Hugh Williams explains

There are pockets of brownfield land in our towns and villages that are still being overlooked by developers. Even in a rural county like Somerset, there is huge potential to make more of our brownfield land. It is unacceptable that we continue to allow large scale housing development to tear up our green fields and dominate our village communities while brownfield sites lie unused, often in prime locations.  Somerset needs new homes and we should make better use of our brownfield sites to deliver good quality housing and vibrant communities whilst protecting our beautiful countryside.

Previous research has shown that development of the highest quality farmland has soared 1,000-fold in ten years while brownfield sites wait for regeneration.

Meanwhile, the demand for social housing is growing six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas and, at current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take over 120 years to clear.

What needs to change?

CPRE is calling for the following changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill:

  • Only allowing greenfield developments if they deliver affordable housing for local needs, or where they make as much use as possible of brownfield land;
  • The New Homes Bonus should only be paid out to support development of brownfield land and/or extra affordable homes;
  • The Infrastructure Levy should be set at a much higher rate on greenfield land
  • Local communities should be given stronger mechanisms to bring brownfield land forward.

Help us support brownfield development and save green fields

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derelict building with weeds growing
Derelict brickworks, London Steven Goddard from Pixabay