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Understanding 'Greyfield' land, a new approach to housing development

Posted 25/06/2024 by Your Move
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In the run up to the general election, the housing strategies of political parties have come under increased scrutiny. One term that has emerged in recent discussions is ‘greyfield’ or ‘grey belt’ land, primarily associated with the Labour Party. Here we discuss the definition of this term, its potential impact on planning policy, and how it could help unlock land for much-needed new homes.

What is 'Greyfield' Land?

'Greyfield' land provides a third designation for types of land, alongside the familiar greenfield and brownfield categories:

  • Greenfield: Land that has not been previously developed.
  • Brownfield: Previously developed land that is no longer in use.
  • Greyfield: Traditionally refers to underused land and buildings in towns and cities. However, its definition varies, sometimes including car parks, rooftops, and disused buildings like empty shopping centres.

Evolution of the Term 'Greyfield'

The term 'greyfield' first appeared in the 1990s and has since evolved. Recently, the concept of the 'grey belt' has emerged, suggesting that even some green belt land might be reclassified for development. Industry estimates suggest that 'grey belt' land could provide space for up to 500,000 homes in London alone, with strategic development potentially yielding 74,000 homes annually for the next 15 years.

The Role of Green Belt Land

The green belt, established in the 1930s, aims to protect green spaces around urban areas and prevent urban sprawl by limiting development. Despite its benefits, the green belt has been criticised for hindering housing development. For instance, 77% of green belt land within one mile of a train station remains undeveloped. Developing just 1% of the green belt could deliver 738,000 homes, equivalent to over two and a half years of national housing provision.

Balancing Development and Green Space

While brownfield sites are crucial for sustainable development, limiting development to urban areas risks reducing accessible green spaces needed for residents' well-being. The 'greyfield' concept, though still new and evolving, presents a potential solution to balance the need for housing with the preservation of green spaces and as we currently face a housing crisis, innovative ideas like 'greyfield' land are essential.

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Source: LSL Land & New Homes

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