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Brownfield Sites

By: Jennifer Gray - Updated: 14 Apr 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Brownfield Brownfield Sites

In the UK a brownfield site is defined as "previously developed land" that has the potential for being redeveloped. It is often (but not always) land that has been used for industrial and commercial purposes and is now derelict and possibly contaminated. In the USA a brownfield site always refers to industrial land that has been abandoned and that is also contaminated with low levels of hazardous waste and pollutants.

The lack of available green spaces for development purposes has meant that brownfield sites have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in places where demand for residential and commercial property is high. There are over 66,000 hectares of brownfield sites in England, and around a third of these are in the high-growth areas of greater London, the South East and East. The UK is committed to developing brownfield sites as a priority. It has already exceeded its 2008 target of building over 60% of new houses on brownfield sites, and aims to significantly grow this percentage over the next decade.

Brownfield sites are considered for redevelopment of not only housing and commercial buildings, but also as open spaces for recreation, conservation, woodland and other community areas.

Assessment

All brownfield sites need to be assessed by an experienced environmental consultant before they can be redeveloped. This involves an analysis of the soil, groundwater and surface water through testing for hazardous compounds, and ensures that appropriate measures are taken to reduce identified risks and liabilities. Any development plans must be made compliant with current regulations. Special licenses are required to reclaim brownfield sites and strict environmental regulations can be prohibitive for developers. If the environmental assessment is positive and supports the redevelopment, the next step is remediation.

Remediation

Remediation of a brownfield site is the removal of all known contaminants to levels considered safe for human health. Redevelopment can only take place after all environmental health risks have been assessed and removed. Remediation can be expensive and complex, and this needs to be seriously considered before purchasing brownfield land. Not all sites are deemed suitable for remediation, particularly if the costs exceed the value of the land after development.

In the last few years several new and exciting remediation technologies have started to emerge. These are proving to be relatively low-cost compared to traditional processes, with the benefit of protecting and preserving the environment:

  • Bioremediation uses the natural processes of indigenous bacteria, microorganisms, plants, enzymes and fungi to destroy or neutralise toxins and contaminants.
  • Phytoremediation uses plants to store contaminants in their leaves and stems (bioaccumulation). Some contaminants such as heavy metals can be harvested and mined for reuse (phytomining). With phytoremediation, it is critical that contaminants do not enter the food chain. With this in mind, scientists are currently exploring the value of biofuel and energy crops as phytoremediators.
  • In-Situ Chemical Oxidation injects oxygen or chemical oxidants into the contaminated soil or water to destroy harmful compounds.
These new remediation technologies are providing important information about the abilities of natural processes to transform poisonous materials back into a harmless state. This information has widespread application in many situations, but is particularly relevant for restoration of the damaged environment and rehabilitation of brownfield land.

Sustainable Redevelopment

The reclamation and reuse of brownfield sites is a core component of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy integrating a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives. Brownfield redevelopment not only cleans up environmental health hazards and eyesores, but it is also a catalyst for community regeneration, particularly when communities are brought into the consultation process of site identification and restoration. Managed effectively as a sustainable redevelopment scheme, brownfield sites provide affordable housing, create opportunities for employment, promote conservation and wildlife, and offer a shared place for play and enjoyment. Above all, the transformation of a brownfield site is a vision of hope for the future.

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[Add a Comment]
Can someone erect an agricultural barn 10 year previously in open countryside and then claim it is 'a brown site' and can then use this as an argument to build a housing development on the site?
Millie - 14-Apr-19 @ 4:46 PM
Hi. I have 1.25 acres of land locked old water board reclaimed filter bed land. Works removed in1960 I own the surrounding land so not land locked to me. That is green belt. I would like to put my poultry houses n meat rabbit pens in there also grow saplings for resale Where do I find out what is permitted developement on a brown field site Any advice welcome. Thank you
Bev - 23-Mar-19 @ 11:22 AM
I have 6 hecs land use for Haulage residential and eqestrian and sales and doingb &b machine sales repairs sale of 4 x 4 etc used byus since 1981. I had some enforcements in early 2000'sthey were all quashed by inspectorate in 2008..we now do all these things plus caravan storidge camping and one shepherds hut . i've managed to get4 extra housewith great difficulty.. The councilsaid at the tribujnal when asked the land is not agricultural greenfieldand greenfield they can cover the whole fieldnow that it has a blackline around the whole property
Just William - 14-Mar-19 @ 1:34 PM
I have a piece of land which has old stone pig stys on ,i have been told its brown field land , would it be possibleto turn the pig stys in to a small retierment home ,the pig stys are in a bad state
Bren - 15-Jan-19 @ 8:11 PM
Hello, Would someone be able to tell me what the criteria for a 'small brownfield' site would be. Thanks in advance Rachel
Rachel - 2-Oct-18 @ 6:41 PM
Hi guys, if land was altered by dumping 8ft of clay and soil from a road expansion some 30years ago, now under grass, can it be classified as brownfield site? Are there examples of this in the UK/Scotland
fartie - 4-Sep-18 @ 8:32 AM
Please would you be able to tell me what percentage of new housing in the UK has been on greenfield and brownfield land in Kent since targets were set?
JANET GLANDER - 19-Aug-18 @ 4:10 PM
Confused about desig - Your Question:
There is a site that was a landfill more than 40years ago. It has not been reconstructed but now blends in with the green belt. It has never had buildings on it. Would it be considered green field or brownfield?

Our Response:
It wouldn't necessarily be consider as brownfield or greenfield - the easiest way to find out would be to contact your local authority. Some landlfill sites cannot be built on because of what's beneath the surface (!)
SustainableBuild - 23-Jul-18 @ 10:15 AM
There is a site that was a landfill more than 40years ago. It has not been reconstructed but now blends in with the green belt. It has never had buildings on it. Would it be considered green field or brownfield?
Confused about desig - 19-Jul-18 @ 1:42 PM
Pops - Your Question:
Hi I own a small parcel of land that I belive is a brownfield site, the site was MOD land up until around 1970, it was then used or taken over by the local council, the land itself had timber houses to which the LA filled for families. some 30 years ago the LA decided to demolish the site and build new stone houses !, half of the land was then sold off ! This is the land to which I refer is possible brownfield, my land // The said land was then returned to agricultural use. Is it possible that this land is classed as green belt or brownfield site within the green belt, and can I put in as such to build a dwelling.I am located in Wiltshire, I have no faith in the LPA.

Our Response:
We really can't give individual opionions on pieces of land or when/where reclassifications are possible.
SustainableBuild - 30-Jan-18 @ 12:26 PM
Hi I own a small parcel of land that i belive is a brownfield site, the site was MOD land up until around 1970, it was then used or taken over by the local council, the land itself had timber housesto which the LA filled for families. some 30 years ago the LA decided to demolish the site and build new stone houses !, half of the land was then sold off ! This is the land to which i refer is possible brownfield, my land // The said land was then returned to agricultural use. Is it possible that this land is classed as green belt or brownfield site within the green belt, and can i put in as such to build a dwelling. I am located in Wiltshire, i have no faith in the LPA. .
Pops - 28-Jan-18 @ 8:38 PM
Where are you stats from specifically "There are over 66,000 hectares of brownfield sites in England, and around a third of these are in the high-growth areas of greater London, the South East and East. The UK is committed to developing brownfield sites as a priority. It has already exceeded its 2008 target of building over 60% of new houses on brownfield sites, and aims to significantly grow this percentage over the next decade." Thanks
charles - 7-Jan-18 @ 4:10 PM
We own land which was a former manmade millpond and water management system including stone sluices, stone culverts and man made mill bypass channel which date back several hundred years but 80% of which are still clearly visible. The old mill building, to which this land was originally curtilage land, was converted to residential use in 1982. We have an email dated 7th August 2007 from the LPA confirming the "fact that the site is previously developed land". Under the new planning in principle brownfield planning law which came into effect in April 2017 we submitted plans for a new house on 20% of the site the remainder to left in a natural state to encourage wildlife. Our application has been refused as the Planning Officer who considered that the that the surface mounted structures have blended into the landscape with the passage of time. We strongly disagree and need an irrevocable and incontestable opinion as to what if any blending into the landscape, or not as the case may be, has occurred to counter this reason for refusal - can you please suggest to whom we might turn for such an opinion.
Swedish Fish - 20-Nov-17 @ 10:25 AM
don - Your Question:
I own a small site (6 houses possibly) that was a resevoir with pumphouse, the pumphouse was demolished due to vandalism so was not considerd "brownfeild".Strange that vandals can prevent developement.With changes favouring brownfeild developement is this situation likely to change?Don.

Our Response:
A brownfield site does not have to have existing properties in situ...it can be land that was previously developed.
SustainableBuild - 3-Nov-17 @ 3:40 PM
I own a small site (6 houses possibly) that was a resevoir with pumphouse, the pumphouse was demolished due to vandalism so was not considerd "brownfeild". Strange that vandals can prevent developement. With changes favouring brownfeild developement is this situation likely to change? Don.
don - 3-Nov-17 @ 1:29 PM
Val Daniels - Your Question:
Hi , can you if possible please send me a detailed plan of all brownfeild sites around Warrington in cheshire that are available for development, as the local council are planning a very large project on our greenbelt sites.Kind Regards Val Daniels

Our Response:
We're sorry we don't have lists of sites like that. You can find out what land/redevelopment land is for sale via local commercial/rural/land agents though.
SustainableBuild - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:49 AM
Hi , can you if possible please send me a detailed plan of all brownfeild sites around Warrington in cheshire that are available for development, as the local council are planning a very large project on our greenbelt sites . Kind Regards Val Daniels
Val Daniels - 13-Sep-17 @ 3:17 PM
We own a parcel of land that was used as a tip and has some contamination. It was designated as brownfield but this appears to have lapsed. It is within the green belt. How do we get it re classified?
Cheldon - 6-Jun-17 @ 10:09 AM
HI, I currently have full planning {wooden structures} on a brown field site within the green belt, The structures are in need of slight repair, which will be repaired before any application, I am considering putting in planning for residential properties on the site. The properties will be mono pitch presenting a low impact on the site, which i am happy with however my question is can one ask for an overage % on the site given its sited within the green belt ? for example the wooden structures have an area of 300m2 the LPA do accept the max overage of up to 50%, though i may not get this full percentage. thank you Mark
dole - 15-May-17 @ 11:30 PM
loddfafnir - Your Question:
What's the best way of identifying a brownfield? I've recently seen an example of someone building their own eco-friendly green house on an old brownfield site (e.g. an old quarry, I think it was). Is it literally a case of coming across an appropriate site and then asking the Council about it's availability? I'd love to find an alternative to usual mortgage debt if possible!

Our Response:
The definition of brownfield is in the article above. You would have to "own" the land yourself in order to build something on it. If you identify a piece of brownfield land and manage find the owner willing to sell, you could ask your local planning office what type of development they would allow(before purchasing it of course).
SustainableBuild - 3-May-17 @ 11:20 AM
What's the best way of identifying a brownfield?I've recently seen an example of someone building their own eco-friendly green house on an old brownfield site (e.g. an old quarry, I think it was).Is it literally a case of coming across an appropriate site and then asking the Council about it's availability?I'd love to find an alternative to usual mortgage debt if possible!
loddfafnir - 2-May-17 @ 3:37 PM
I have a 6.4 hec's site of mixed use equestrian haulage andresidential with its own black line settlement boundary. We have been using the site in various degrees since the 1st june 1981 and is now classed as brownfield. Ive have put in plans for modern filling station and 6 houses closed to main house. Is there any suggestions for the other 5 hecs
billy - 21-Nov-15 @ 11:07 AM
candy656 - Your Question:
We are looking to purchase a house with a 3 acre field (not attached to the house but up a shared drive with 1 neighbour) there are 4/5 large 40ft derelict greenhouses on the site along with what appears to be a very large poly tunnel base. We are looking to purchase the property with a view to possibly build on the above a home for ourselves one day. I believe this would be classed as brownfield but where would I start to investigate?

Our Response:
Your local planning officer will be able to tell you this.
SustainableBuild - 3-Sep-15 @ 2:33 PM
ecopat - Your Question:
We are in adverse possession of a small plot (about half an acre) of unregistered land within the green belt. Our aim is to fulfill the 12 year rule to eventually own said plot. From the late 60's the land was being used by a government department as a 'road making facility' to store aggregates and oil for the manufacture of tarmac on the site, and was abandoned by them over 20 years ago. There are no buildings on the site. The land was left contaminated with solidified tarmac and aggregates. The abandonment of the land caused a huge fly tipping problem. What are the chances of this land being reclassified as a brownfield site?

Our Response:
We really can't say as we don't know the area or the specific details. A local planner may be able to tell you.
SustainableBuild - 2-Sep-15 @ 12:28 PM
We are in adverse possession of a small plot (about half an acre) of unregistered land within the green belt.Our aim is to fulfill the 12 year rule to eventually own said plot.From the late 60's the land was being used by a government department as a 'road making facility' to store aggregates and oil for the manufacture of tarmac on the site, and was abandoned by them over 20 years ago.There are no buildings on the site.The land was left contaminated with solidified tarmac and aggregates.The abandonment of the land caused a huge fly tipping problem.What are the chances of this land being reclassified as a brownfield site?
ecopat - 30-Aug-15 @ 12:07 PM
we are looking to purchase a house with a 3 acre field (not attached to the house but up a shared drive with 1 neighbour) there are 4/5 large 40ft derelict greenhouses on the site along with what appears to be a very large poly tunnel base. We are looking to purchase the property with a view to possibly build on the above a home for ourselves one day. I believe this would be classed as brownfield but where would i start to investigate?
candy656 - 29-Aug-15 @ 11:50 PM
@Cllr marmite. What has the planning been granted for?
SustainableBuild - 29-Jul-15 @ 12:05 PM
I live in Trowse Norfolk a large selection of river valley has been granted planning despite massive objection's, when the land is return will it then became brown field site? Russell N Herring
Cllr marmite - 28-Jul-15 @ 10:26 AM
@Regret. It does not mean that it will necessarily be a problem for you. Some traces of diesel do not mean the land is "contaminated|". Contamination to a level where it could be harmful is usually in areas of former heavy industry such as chemical works, factories, mines etc. Your local council will be able to give guidance on this. If you want to take action against the developer you will need to have evidence that they did not take sufficient precautions in the building design etc.
SustainableBuild - 15-Jul-15 @ 10:14 AM
I bought my new build house in December 2014; the land was previously a bus depot. When digging a trench to plant a hedge we found diesel in the soil as close to the surface as 3-4 inches, and have since discovered there is what appears to be a big concrete tank just below ground level - the "garden" was a mound above the level of the road, so it looks as though the developers had tried to cover it up rather than dealing with the contaminated land. Where do we stand with this legally?
Regret - 9-Jul-15 @ 3:25 PM
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