Prestwick Road (site 4815).
Prestwick Road (site 4815), Dinnington, previously Green Belt.

Greenfield sites which have not previously been built on and this includes legally designated Green Belt land around cities.  Brownfield sites have been previously developed and are no longer in use and may be derelict.  Brownfield sites are usually, but not exclusively, found within urban areas.

“The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.” National Planning Policy Framework, 2012 paragraph 79

According to the framework, Green Belt serves five purposes:

  1. To prevent urban  sprawl (the unrestricted growth of large built-up areas);
  2. To prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another (forming conurbations);
  3. To help to safeguard the countryside;
  4. To preserve the setting and character of historic towns;
  5. To encourage urban regeneration through the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

The issue of pressure on the Green Belt is found throughout the UK.  The National Trust argues the 2012 planning framework has made it easier for councils to build in green undeveloped areas while overlooking brownfield alternative sites [Planning at a national level NT website; interview in The Telegraph May 10th 2016].  The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) shares this view:

“CPRE is raising serious concerns about whether the Government’s pledge to prevent building in the Green Belt other than in ‘exceptional circumstances’ is being implemented effectively.” http://www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news-releases/item/3402-green-belt-threat

Green Belt Under Siege, a research report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) published 27 March 2015, shows that more houses are planned for Green Belt land than when the UK Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was implemented in 2012.  In a recent summary report (Dec 2016) Our Green Belt: worth investing in CPRE argues green belts provide essential ecological functions (a priority habitat) and provide recreational opportunities.

“The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) agrees with Ministers that we can and should boost housebuilding above the current level of 190,000 houses per year. But this should not, and must not, come at the expense of other Government commitments to maintain protection of our precious countryside, including Green Belts, protected landscapes, and other open countryside.”  CPRE Press release 22 November 2016

In July 2017, the CPRE issued an updated report Green Belt Under Siege 2017.  This latest report shows housing development proposed for the Green Belt in local plans has increased by 150,000 to 425,000 houses since the March 2016 report.  In addition at least 800 hectares of greenfield land in the Green Belt have been developed for a range of commercial or industrial projects, such as offices or retail parks, since 2009.  CPRE argue that nearly three-quarters of the housing proposed on land to be released from the Green Belt will be unaffordable for most people living in the local area; they estimate only 16% of the new homes proposed on Green Belt in the NE of England will be affordable.  They also say the Government scheme ‘the New Homes Bonus’ is providing financial incentives that significantly increase Green Belt development.

“Depressingly, at a time when more than 1.8 million households in England are waiting for a “social” home, a clear majority of the housing proposed on land to be released from the Green Belt will be unaffordable for most people living in the local area.  And in a final irony, with the New Homes Bonus the Government appears content to financially incentivise significant increases in Green Belt release and development that undermine its own policy to protect it. The result is unnecessary loss of countryside and development that fails to give people the homes they need.” CPRE Green Belt Under Siege 2017 report pp 9-10

Influential architect Richard Rodgers argues that the 2010s housing ‘crisis calls for new ways of planning’ to revitalise our urban areas not more ‘commuter dormitories’ around our cities.  He says building new towns only diverts investment away from complex urban brown field sites and existing centres.  He argues the biggest opportunity lies in redevelopment by adapting existing buildings and working outward from centres where there is already good access to public transport and shops.

“We do not need to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our cities industrialised earlier and more extensively than many others in Europe; and as heavy industry continues to decline, our stock of brownfield sites is replenished. These derelict sites tear apart the urban tapestry of our cities, creating threatening voids, and making local services and infrastructure, from schools to shops, unviable. Building on greenfield sites does not just waste land, but also undermines urban amenities and the communities that depend on them.”  Richard Rogers, The Guardian 15th July 2014

The CPRE has put pressure on government to adopt a ‘brownfield first‘ approach.  Research published by the CPRE in March 2016 shows that brownfield sites are actually developed more than six months faster than greenfield sites.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 requires local authorities to adopt a brownfield register in order to enable house builders to identify suitable sites, quickly speeding up the construction of new homes.  This register must be published by each local planning authority by the end of 2017.  Under secondary legislation, the 2017 Permission in Principle Order, automatic permission in principle  for housing-led development on land included in the new brownfield land registers will apply (comes into force mid April 2017).  We don’t yet know what impact this new legislation will have.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “We want to help hard working families and first time buyers to own their home and to achieve this by building on brownfield land wherever possible to help protect our valued countryside. The register helps deliver both of these at a stroke.” UK Government press release March 10th 2016

One of the issues with developing a previously used site, particularly an industrial one, is removing  toxins from the soil.  The cost of this is often met by central and local government  but unfortunately according to a Guardian report the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs drastically cut its funding for remediation, and plans to phase it out in 2017 [The Guardian June 2nd 2016].  At a parliamentary hearing MPs were told of fears some sites might  not be properly decontaminated as a result.

“Howard Price, principal policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), told the committee’s hearings he had heard of local authority sites where officials had been told not to investigate potential contamination, for fear of the cost consequences.”  The Guardian June 2nd 2016

Proposals to build on the green belt in Newcastle

Newcastle proposal map
Newcastle policy map: Orange areas to be removed from Green Belt

In the One Core Strategy map above, the green areas show the green belt and the orange areas were proposed for residential development.  The proposals for housing on the green belt were not welcomed by some residents locally.  On the other hand, he council argued it would not be possible to fulfill their aspiration to provide over 20,000 new homes without building on some green belt land.

The Newcastle West Green Belt Protection Campaign was among campaign groups who fought the plans, but the campaign was lost and large areas have effectively been removed from the Green Belt.  Around 800 houses are now expected to be built on the edge of Kingston Park and Kenton Bank Foot – a consultation took place in March 2016.  (See Kingston Park page for updates.)

“It’s hard to say what impact we had on the whole examination process. It was frustrating to raise questions which were answered unsatisfactorily or not at all, but the Inspector had a programme to stick to and didn’t allow repetitive review of the detail.  Nevertheless, the Inspector was scrupulous in allowing everyone’s voice to be heard and campaign groups certainly had their share of attention.” Entry on the Newcastle West Greenbelt Blog [No longer available, see NWG facebook page]

In villages some residents felt the amount of housing proposed is just too large and would affect the character of the village.  For example residents in Dinnington objected to the scale of a proposal for a ‘village growth area’ of 250 new houses on the edge of the village as described in the One Core Strategy strategic land review. (See the separate Dinnington page for updates on development there).

“The inspector supported homes on greenfield sites at Callerton (3,000 homes), Newbiggin Hall (300), Kingston Park and Kenton Bank Foot (800), Newcastle Great Park (1,480), Dinnington (250), Throckley (550), Hazlerigg and Wide Open (500), all in Newcastle.” Newcastle Chronicle report that the plans for new homes have been  backed by the inspector (November 18, 2014)

Neighbouring the western edge of Newcastle is a part of Northumberland where the county council proposes ‘deleting’ large portions of the green belt in its core strategy document to 2031 order to allow urban development close to residential areas such as Ponteland (Chronicle report Nov 19, 2014).  This too has met with local opposition (Ponteland Green Belt; plans approved Morpeth Herald, 21st March 2017).

Brown alternatives in Newcastle

A CPRE report compiled from publicly available statistics, in council submissions to the  National Land Use database, estimates more than a million homes are possible on brownfield land in England [Housing capacity on suitable brownfield land, October 2016].  According to this report, using data in the brownfield register pilot, the six participating local authorities in the North East of England had an estimated housing capacity of 20,015 homes (Newcastle was part of the pilot).

There are a variety of types of brownfield sites that were earmarked for development as part of the 2016 pilot (see below).  These are mainly smaller plots scattered throughout inner city and riverside areas.

Newcastle Brownfield register pilot 2016
Newcastle Brownfield register pilot 2016

Some examples of Brownfield housing developments in Newcastle

Council owned sites: £11.8m affordable homes funding from The Homes and Communities Agency has been secured to build 72 shared ownership homes, 53 rent to buy properties and 324 specialist homes to rent aimed at vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with long-term disability needs [BB Jan 2017].

Forth Banks, adjacent to the Stephenson Quarter, is a 280-home £37m development by Worthington Properties, Moorfield Group, and Panacea Property Development [BB 19 Dec 2016].  It lies between the railway line and the River Tyne to the west of the Tyne bridges.  Newcastle council development framework page.

Rutherford Street is a controversial plan by Stonegate Developments and New Leaf Investments to build an impressive 26-storey skyscraper providing 162 flats by demolishing a  fire-damaged former warehouse (image).  It had supporters and detractors (the latter including Historic England and the Newcastle Conservation Advisory Panel)  [BB 20 February 2017].  Rutherford Street is close to the old city wall and Blackfriars – the medieval heart of Newcastle.   Newcastle Chronicle artist’s impression [16th November 2016].  Planning was granted in February 2017 for 96 one-bedroomed flats and 66 two-bedroomed flats http://www.citygrove.com/rutherford-for-living/.  FaulknerBrowns Architects have designed the building https://faulknerbrowns.co.uk/latest/news/rutherford-street-planning-application-approved

  • Brownfield Briefing (BB) is published by a business research organisation which tracks development on previously developed land.

Updated 3rd July 2017; links checked 31st March 2017.