31 January 2003
With brownfield development being top of the Government’s agenda as far as urban development is concerned, targets have been set indicating that 60 per cent of new homes should be built on brownfield land by 2008.
The move to brownfield development can be fraught with delays, complexities and often hidden costs as many developers are discovering. However, Barratt Homes’ Newcastle division managed to build 70 per cent of its new homes on brownfield sites in the north eastern region last year versus the national average of 61 per cent.
In common with most other housebuilders, Barratt does not have a team of brownfield remediation consultants in house so the Newcastle office has been tackling the issue of brownfield development at the former Consett Steelworks site with the support of an environmental consultancy.
WYG, together with Hellens Contracts have been carrying out major investigative surveys for Barratt on three available brownfield sites at Consett for the last year. By September, after only 12 months of involvement, Barratt Newcastle was able to submit a planning application for one of these to build 117 two, three and four bedroom homes and expects determination in January. If granted, preparatory earthworks could start in spring.
Neil Milburn, Barratt Newcastle’s land and planning manager is very encouraged by the quality of information he has been given by the consultancy, which he reckons will play a key role in future in helping Barratt to deliver its new build housing quota. He says:
“The Consett site is a really difficult one and for a site of this complexity, we have been able to submit a planning application in record time. This is ideal because in our experience, whilst the concept of brownfield development is sound, there is no appreciation by local authorities on how long the brownfield enabling process takes and their planning systems often fall far short of commercial requirements, so any saving we can make in time is to our benefit.
“Most of these brownfield sites have problems of one kind or another but the consultants carry out the investigative works, formulate a remediation strategy and bring the project in within budget by working hand in hand with the contractor to manage the whole process. It makes my job much easier and takes a lot of the risk out of brownfield development.”
As Stephen Carruthers, a regional director at WYG’s Leeds office, starts work appraising the next major development site in the north east with Barratt Newcastle, many of WYG’s regional offices are involved in similar schemes elsewhere in the UK. He says:
“This project has taken about a year from the start of our investigative works to the submission of the planning application. WYG is fortunate in having a large in-house team of ecologists, landscape consultants and remediation specialists as well as established relationships with other remediation partners, so we are in a strong position to handle this kind of work.
“Without this level of expertise, developers will find the Government’s targets hard to meet which could continue to limit output, affecting the numbers of new homes available in the future.”