Budget funding to build on brownfield sites and transform neglected spaces

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In his recent budget, the Chancellor announced investment in housing of almost £24 billion, to be released over a period of several years. Here are a few of the areas that are attracting government funding.

Brownfield fund

Following the Prime Minister’s conference speech in October, when he promoted the concept of “beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense”, the Treasury has announced new funding to help build around 180,000 new affordable homes in England. The homes will be built on brownfield sites – the term used for derelict or unused land – an area of around 1,500 hectares.

The £1.5 billion of the fund will “regenerate underused land and deliver transport links and community facilities”. Another £300 million to combined and local authorities that will be used ‘unlock’ smaller sites.

Further details will be provided by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

The Affordable Homes Programme was reconfirmed with £4 billion of grant funding available in London and £7.5 billion for the rest of England. Homes England and the Greater London Authority have already been named as successful bidders for the funding, with others in the pipeline.

Following the announcement, critics pointed out the lack of focus on helping home owners reduce heating costs and decrease emissions from their homes.

Brownfield sites are notoriously more expensive to develop than green fields. Although it is likely that some of the vital infrastructure may already be in place, such as drainage and electricity, it may be necessary to clean up any contamination of the land or demolish existing buildings. Older commercial buildings are likely to contain asbestos but there could be wider issues if the site has been used for industrial use. Some brownfield sites may be affected by the Party Wall Act, which places responsibilities on builders developing buildings close to neighbouring properties.

Decarbonisation fund

In its manifesto, a £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund was promised over ten years, to help mitigate the costs involved in housing association and council stock reaching net zero by 2050. Last week the government confirmed the next wave of this funding of £800 million.

Cladding

A new 4% levy is to be placed on the biggest property developers on profits over £25 million, which will be used towards creating a £5 billion fund to remove unsafe cladding. Homeowners of high rise flats have suffered crippling costs due to the practice of installing unsafe cladding by developers.

The new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, Michael Gove, has since questioned plans to charge leaseholders for remedial work to buildings with dangerous cladding, saying that they should not have to pay for it to be replaced. Describing leaseholders as “innocent parties” he said that previous plans to force flat owners  to take out loans to cover the cost of remedial work would be paused.

Homelessness

Measures to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness will benefit from £640 million of funding. Projects including the Rough Sleeping Initiative, which invests in “locally led, tailored interventions to move rough sleepers into secure accommodation” alongside the provision of 6,000 homes under the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme.

In addition, another £9 million is to be allocated to local councils to help convert neglected urban spaces into around 100 urban ‘pocket parks’. The pocket parks could be around the size of a tennis court, and aim to improve access to green spaces for the estimated 2.5 million people who live more than ten minutes from their nearest green space.

Planning

Also in the budget, the Chancellor announced that England’s planning system would be digitised with the help of £65 million. The funding will help to develop new software and will be rolled out to 175 local authorities in England in its first phase.

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