PM wants to unlock brownfield sites for homes in areas like Welwyn Hatfield
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Frank Augstein/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government will help councils unlock brownfield developments to avoid having to build on Green Belt, but wouldn’t back immediate changes to Herts housing targets.
On a visit to Welwyn Garden City today, the Prime Minister claimed ‘levelling up’ other parts of the country will result in less strain on the home counties fighting against housing targets.
A number of councils in Herts, including Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, paused or delayed work on their Local Plans following the Prime Minister’s comments last September that he will oppose greenfield building in the south east.
The Prime Minister was asked what his message was to, often Conservative-run councils, that had clashed with Government inspectors on housing targets, which will see them required to build thousands of homes in the next 15 years.
In Welwyn Hatfield’s case, the government’s inspector said the time had passed to discuss housing targets and said the council must agree to build 15,200 homes, or start from scratch after 10 years of work.
The Prime Minister did not outline any policy changes on targets or the Green Belt, but said the government was funding infrastructure to take advantage of brownfield sites. He added once other areas of the country have been ‘levelled up’ there will be less strain on areas surrounding London.
Mr Johnson said: “There are the strategic brownfield sites, and that’s where we should be going, there is the land.
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“The thing you’ve got to do is put in the infrastructure to make that land viable. The reason developers always want to go for green field is because they think it’s much easier, cheaper to build on.
“But if you put in the right transport links and you make the right investments, you can get away with sites that otherwise would not be viable. That’s what we’re doing, that’s why we’ve got one of the biggest packages of investment into travel infrastructure in 100 years.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak added the Treasury had dedicated more than £1.5bn of “dedicated investment” for unlocking brownfield sites.
In response to a follow-up question about whether that goes far enough for parts of Hertfordshire that are heavily dominated by Green Belt, the Prime Minister said work on improving other corners of the country would reduce the strain on councils.
Mr Johnson said: “Levelling up is the right thing for the whole country, because what it does is it makes sure that people around the whole UK get the opportunities that they need, because there’s talent everywhere and opportunities. But what it also does is it takes some of the pressure off overcrowded or congested parts of the country, which are suffering from over-development, particularly on green field sites.
“But I know from a lot of experience running heavily populated areas, there’s plenty of good brownfield land to build on, if you put in the right infrastructure.”