Media & Insights

More growth, more jobs, more homes – new research suggests that unlocking brownfield urban regeneration could deliver over a million new jobs and over 1.3 million new homes by 2035

2 October 2023

New research by Development Economics on behalf of British Land, Landsec and The Berkeley Group quantifies the scale of the opportunity available from redeveloping urban brownfield land in the UK. The research focuses on 16 of the largest and most dynamic urban areas, where the pressure for development is the most intense.

When looking at current and expected future brownfield land supply across these 16 urban areas, the report findings show a significant untapped opportunity, which could deliver:

- over 1.14 million jobs in office, industrial and logistics space located on urban brownfield sites; and

- nearly £185 billion of additional Gross Value Added directly from business activity occurring on those sites.

When looking specifically at housing development, under a business-as-usual scenario over 518,000 new homes could also be built on current and expected future brownfield land in the 16 urban areas included in the study by 2035. This increases to over 1 million new homes in a more aspirational scenario, reflecting higher densities already being achieved in urban areas.
In our most ambitious scenario, where housing densities are increased in line with the government’s proposed uplift in housing targets in England’s 20 largest cities and urban areas, it would be possible to deliver over 1.3 million new homes on previously developed land in the 16 study areas.

Development on urban brownfield land could go a long way towards meeting the country’s urgent need to deliver more homes, particularly if delivered at higher densities. However, it is recognised that increased densities may not be appropriate or desirable in every urban setting. – it will be for local authorities and developers, in consultation with local communities, to identify the most appropriate balance of uses and densities in each location.

Our planning system remains a significant barrier to achieving the regeneration, housing delivery and economic growth. That’s why, in July this year, British Land and Landsec launched a joint discussion paper ‘More growth, more jobs, more homes’ which proposed a series of simple, practical changes to reform the planning system to unlock urban regeneration.

This paper recommended resourcing planning departments more effectively and piloting new ways of working in progressive authorities, creating tax incentives for urban regeneration, and connecting communities more directly to the benefits of development, with real, measurable opportunities for communities to engage in the planning process.

The regeneration of brownfield land is widely recognised as the most sustainable way to tackle the deepening housing crisis, drive growth and reduce inequalities for future generations. Today’s announcement clearly demonstrates the scale of the opportunity available to us.

Mark Allan, CEO at Landsec said: “Both of the main political parties have been clear on their priorities for growth but with the current economic situation, neither party has the capital to invest in that growth. This research clearly demonstrates the opportunity available through brownfield urban regeneration, an opportunity that we believe can be easily unlocked through simple changes to the planning regime, ahead of wider reform.”

Simon Carter, CEO at British Land said: “Britain has a housing crisis and a productivity crisis and solving both problems is key to returning our country to sustainable, long-term growth. Unlocking urban regeneration through a series of easily deliverable measures would pay huge dividends for the nation. The research we have published today reveals the scale of this opportunity to deliver growth with community support in cities and major urban areas right across the UK.”

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive at The Berkeley Group said: “This research lays bare the untapped potential of brownfield regeneration to tackle the housing crisis, drive growth and tackle deepening inequalities in urban Britain. But development within our towns and cities has gone through a steep and lasting decline as well-meaning changes to planning, tax and regulatory regimes create a rigid and complex system which blocks investment. The good news is that targeted changes can unlock brownfield regeneration very quickly and realise the hugely positive outcomes they can deliver for the communities around them.