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British Land and Landsec create new vision to drive growth by unlocking brownfield urban regeneration

13 July 2023

Planning re-set would result in more growth, more homes and more jobs

British Land and Landsec have drawn up a far-reaching series of recommendations to regenerate the UK’s towns and cities and unlock more growth, more homes and more jobs by improving how the planning system supports brownfield regeneration.

British Land and Landsec have called for a series of changes that will not need primary legislation or significant public funding to help drive growth in towns and cities across the UK.

`More growth, more homes, more jobs – how to reform the planning system to unlock urban regeneration’, has been launched by British Land and Landsec, to tackle what they believe to be a planning system that is hindering economic growth.

The property companies are behind some of Britain’s most significant regeneration projects, including Landsec’s 24-acre Mayfield neighbourhood in central Manchester and British Land and AustralianSuper’s 53-acre Canada Water in London. And through positive experience of large-scale, complex urban developments like these, the two companies have applied these learnings and developed them through this latest paper.

Development on brownfield land in key urban locations is increasingly needed to drive investment and growth and build communities for future generations. However, it suffers more than any other form of development from the shortcomings of the current system. This is despite the fact that all political parties are united on the need to deliver more new homes and economic growth on brownfield land.

In the paper, British Land and Landsec highlight three principal reasons for this:

  • Successive changes to the planning system have resulted in layers of complexity, which mean the system’s default mode is to prevent or delay economic activity.
  • These changes have added to the burden on planning authorities, meaning they have become increasingly stretched.
  • A focus on housebuilding on greenfield sites and a rigid planning framework detract from mixed use urban development.

British Land and Landsec have set out a roadmap of proposed improvements, which seek to balance the interests of both the private and public sectors and the communities they collectively serve:

  • Define brownfield urban regeneration sites as a separate planning category and focus on these opportunities to drive economic growth
  • Secure quick wins and pilot new ways of working in progressive authorities
  • Resource the planning system more effectively and reduce complexity and duplication to improve performance, with centralised specialist planning resource too support the delivery of large, complex sites
  • Encourage proportionate decision-making to ensure that planning decisions are taken at the level their impacts are felt
  • Recognise the bespoke nature and viability challenges of urban regeneration
  • Create tax incentives to unlock investment in infrastructure and remediation of brownfield land
  • Place communities at the heart of reshaping urban spaces

Simon Carter, Chief Executive Officer, British Land said: “There is political consensus in the need to prioritise urban regeneration over greenfield development. The ideas we are recommending today would help to drive our country’s growth by rejuvenating our great cities and towns and can be put into place quickly and easily.”

Mark Allan, Chief Executive Officer at Landsec, said: “Urban, brownfield regeneration has the potential to unlock growth and prosperity for cities across the UK. However, the current planning system acts as a significant brake to this growth. We believe that by making some necessary but simple changes to the existing planning regime, we can unlock this opportunity – for the benefit of the UK, for the economy and importantly for the communities we build for.”