UK: The Greenfield/Brownfield Dilemma

Last Updated: 18 January 2001
Article by Richard Sugar

The identification of land for new housing development has never been so difficult for developers. This follows radical Government guidance in the form of Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 (PPG3) published in March this year. The Government's principle aim is to provide the majority of new housing on brownfield sites, that is to say, land which has previously been developed. The Guidance gives clear priority to the development of brownfield land before greenfield land. Whilst this concept is straightforward enough in principle, the application of it throws up many uncertainties for the house building industry.

On a national level, the Government has set a target for 60 per cent of new houses to be built on previously developed land. A similar target has been suggested on a regional level through the draft Regional Planning Guidance for Yorkshire and the Humber. Whilst in the first instance, the duty to deliver development on brownfield land falls with Local Planning Authorities, the Government has indicated that planning applications on larger greenfield residential sites which local planning authorities are minded to approve, will first have to be referred to the Secretary of State, in order to see whether he agrees with the authority's judgment.

PPG3 sets a clear hierarchy for the development of land with a search sequence which starts with the re-use of previously developed land within urban areas, then allows consideration of urban extensions and finally new development around nodes in good public transport corridors. In making judgments about the suitability of sites, several criteria are to be applied, the first of which is the availability of previously developed sites. PPG3 advises Local Planning Authorities to undertake urban housing capacity studies in order to form such judgments. At present, however, Authorities have not had the opportunity of undertaking such analysis (other than at a very basic level).

It is apparent that until there is a clear understanding of the amount of previously developed land that is suitable for housing use, the application of PPG3 policies will be difficult to predict. This is particularly the case when one considers that the Guidance is stated to be a material consideration which may supersede policies in development plans and therefore make existing housing allocations on greenfield land effectively worthless.

The interpretation which different Local Planning Authorities appear to be putting on the Guidance varies significantly. At its recent Executive Board Meeting, Leeds City Council resolved that following a broad analysis of brownfield land within the district, as suitable brownfield sites were available, there should be a presumption against permitting housing on greenfield land, even though the greenfield land in question may have been allocated in a development plan for residential purposes. This approach leaves a number of questions for residential developers: what do they do now with greenfield sites which they have spent significant amounts of money promoting through the development plan system? Will it simply be a question of waiting until brownfield land has been developed and then returning to the same greenfield sites? How long will it take the Local Planning Authority to conclude a fully detailed urban housing capacity study? How should such a study deal with any mismatch between the location of brownfield land and different areas of housing market demand?

By way of comparison to Leeds, in Kirklees there appears to be a recognition that although brownfield sites generally should be developed before greenfield sites, there should be at all times a sufficiency of land. As a result, Kirklees appears to have recognised that greenfield sites will need to be developed now, even though undeveloped brownfield land still exists.

At a national level, since the introduction of PPG3 a few months ago, the Secretary of State has already shown his commitment to the refusal of planning permission on greenfield sites. Particular examples of this exist in Nuneaton and Bedworth, where large greenfield developments have been refused, notwithstanding that the sites were allocated for residential development.

The problem becomes even more complex when one realises that the development of brownfield land is itself far from straightforward. Apart from the inherent reclamation issues that often exist, there is genuine resistance to developing within urban areas on the grounds of town cramming. Indeed, in a number of recent appeals, development within suburban areas has been refused on grounds of density, over-development and loss of privacy and amenity. This is the case even when regular standards on these issues have been met. It is clear that such an approach will have a detrimental effect on the achievability of brownfield housing land development targets.

The dilemmas for housebuilders are obvious. On one level, efforts to develop on brownfield land can be thwarted because of fears of town cramming, whilst on another, greenfield land which has been successfully promoted through development plans may not now be capable of development for some considerable time. It is at present almost impossible to make judgments about how long that time period is and the information which will inform that judgment has in most instances, neither been prepared, nor considered in terms of its application.

Just to make matters worse, it is expected that a revision to PPG4 (Dealing with Employment Land) will be produced in Consultation Draft form later this year. It is widely rumoured that this document will contain a similar approach to the identification of such land.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions