Sussex has enough brownfield land for 23,000 new homes, says charity

The old Shoreham cement works site is one of the largest brownfield sites in Sussex. Picture: Google Street ViewThe old Shoreham cement works site is one of the largest brownfield sites in Sussex. Picture: Google Street View
The old Shoreham cement works site is one of the largest brownfield sites in Sussex. Picture: Google Street View
The total area of unused brownfield land in Sussex is approximately the size of Littlehampton, according to new figures from the Countryside Charity, CPRE Sussex.

There are 1,007 acres of abandoned brownfield sites – land which has previously been developed – in Sussex, the charity’s State of Brownfield Report 2020 reveals.

That is enough to build at least 23,000 new homes on land which could be developed in preference to building on the countryside, the charity argues – the equivalent of a large town with an average of 2.2 people per household.

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The charity said that these brownfield sites could provide enough development land to satisfy Sussex’s entire current Local Plan housing requirement for the next three and a half years.

Kia Trainor, director of CPRE Sussex, said: “It’s a travesty that so much brownfield land, in need of regeneration and revival, is lying idle whilst our green spaces which are vital for wildlife and our wellbeing are being lost to concrete.

“The system needs to change so that brownfield land is revitalized before we lose any more of the countryside which is even more important at this time of climate and ecological emergency.”

CPRE Sussex analysed data from councils’ brownfield registers for the report.

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However Ms Trainor said these registers ‘absolutely underestimate’ the number of brownfield sites available – as sites with capacity for less than five homes are not included.

She said there were ‘lots of bits of land dotted all over the place’ which should be prioritised for development before greenfield sites, adding: “Councils or Community Land Trusts can be really effective in building out small brownfield sites for social housing, which is greatly needed.”

The charity identified 41 brownfield sites across Adur and Worthing which have capacity for 2,235 dwellings.

Examples include land at Union Place, Barrington Road and the former Lancing Police Station.

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Planning permission is already in place for 357 dwellings on brownfield sites in the area.

The organisation said these sites should be redeveloped before more space is built over.

It has lodged an objection to proposals to build 475 homes at Chatsmore Farm, a green space which forms part of the Goring Gap.

The charity’s report also claims that:

The South Downs has one of the highest number of brownfield sites with potential for development – 51 sites, an area equating to 48.5 hectares – which could have capacity for 1,416 new homes,

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– Mid Sussex’s 52 brownfield sites could have capacity for 1,910 homes

– Arun’s 33 brownfield sites have capacity for 1,049 new homes

– Chichester’s 20 sites have capacity for 690 homes

– Crawley’s 21 sites have capacity for 1,225 homes

– Horsham’s 38 sites have capacity for 1233 homes

The CPRE said the figures demonstrate that there was already enough land available in England to meet the Government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes per year for the next five years, calling into question its proposal to make changes to the current planning system.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said the figures showed that ‘the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market’.

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“If there is enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets, what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve?” he said.

“It’s clear the government have gravely misdiagnosed the problem – slow build-out rates and market-led housing are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for.”

The share of new homes built on brownfield land fell from 56 per cent in 2016/17 to 53 per cent in 2017/18, according to Government figures.

However the share of homes built on the green belt also fell, from four per cent to two per cent during the same period.

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Developers often claim that building on land which has previously been used, such as for factories, is more expensive than using open fields.

The CPRE is calling on the Government to adopt ‘a truly ‘brownfield-first’ approach’ to development that will ‘breathe new life into the long forgotten and derelict areas in our towns, cities and villages’.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is overhauling the country’s outdated planning system to make it easier to build on brownfield sites, protecting our valued green spaces and Green Belt for future generations.

“Our planned reforms will deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need, placing environmental protection, community engagement and sustainability at the heart of our reforms.

“We’ll increase the supply of land available for new homes where it is needed to address affordability pressures, support economic growth and the renewal of our towns and cities.”

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