On housing density


The framework\’s rejection of the brownfield-first policy is troubling because it was working. Last year, 76% of new dwellings were built on brownfield sites, up from 55% in 1989. It is estimated there are almost 62,000 hectares of brownfield or \”previously developed land\” in England ready for building on, of which 10,000 are in the south-east. This is enough to build more than 1.2m new homes.

That\’s 20 houses a hectare. 500 square metre building plots. So, err, where is all the room for those Passivhaus designs, those big south facing windows for the sun, the solar cells, the veg plots upon which we will feed ourselves?

Mark Wadsworth has the proper figures somewhere but housing, qua housing, is something like 2% of the entire country. Can\’t we spread ourselves out a bit more and have a bit more garden, a bit more living room?

Why do we have such building standards enforced when the main social movement of the day is that everyone should have more land not less?

And this is simply stupid:

Building on brownfield sites is more expensive, especially in the short term. But the great danger is that the social cost of building on these essential spaces between our urban areas will far outweigh the benefits in the longer term. The fear is that we will end up with sprawling conurbations whose peripheries boast upmarket homes that few starting on the property ladder can afford. It is this concern that the government must address.

No you twats. The fact that you cannot build on those greenfield sites is exactly what makes the extant housing there so damn expensive.

3 thoughts on “On housing density”

  1. Surreptitious Evil

    But there’s “brownfield” and there’s “brownfield”. Building on some brownfield sites is trivial – they are even already supplied with utility services (probably in excess density, except sewage) to that used by housing, and for which the developer is required to pay, and demolition, frankly, is cheap. Then again, disused gas and chemical works are also “brownfield.”

    So, to have the slightest chance of being correct, they should have said something like “building on a small percentage of brownfield sites can be very expensive but normally it is cheaper than greenfield, even if the locations are often less desirable.” Like comparing Islington with Tuscany, I suppose – to give an analogy a Guardianista might grok.

  2. I live alone in a three bed semi with a large wilderness garden. This makes me either 1. evil for consuming so much space or 2. environmentally spirited for my contribution to nature. Neither statement can be defined as absolutely true.

    The proposal that all homes are designed/consumed in a singular way assumes that we live our lives in a singular way.

    The homes that deliver the greatest energy efficiencies are very dense, where people shop locally to buy goods and produce that are delivered by specialists. One of the costs of dense housing is provision of a pleasant urban environment (buildings that look good, parks and streets that are safe). Efficiency is not always cheap.

    Some people enjoy living in cities or relatively dense conurbations. Some people like me enjoy wilderness gardens and the company of hedgehogs and butterflies on the fringe of a city.

    Others wish to live outside big towns which is where Tim kicks off. We have to build more homes outside big towns because we’ll squeeze out the workers (indigenous population) otherwise.

    Potentially there is a double plus. Developers who learn the concerns of green belt protesters may start to understand the requirements of urban dwellers a bit better: a few feet more space, buildings with character, public space, real pubs.

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