Instead of choosing a greenfield site and encroaching on a community’s precious biodiversity, focusing on revamping land that has been left to ruin affords self builders space to develop that has far less impact on the environment. So, in that respect, developing disused sites could be the answer to the criticism new builds often come up against. Plus, with the government’s new ‘build build build‘ announcements to upgrade Britain’s infrastructure, and the pledge to develop 300,000 new homes per year, brownfield sites offer an option that ticks lots of boxes.
What is a brownfield site?
Previously used for industrial, commercial, or agricultural purposes, a brownfield site is disused land that could be home to abandoned buildings such as storage units, an old petrol station, or a derelict warehouse. In most circumstances, barn conversions are excluded, as are garden plots or replacement dwellings, but subject to these rules, self builders can recycle old plots to make way for new.
What’s a brownfield register?
To be considered for redevelopment, a brownfield site must be free from ownership issues or legal constraints, and be capable of delivering at least five extra dwellings. In order to allow self builders to easily find these sites, since 2017 local authorities have been required to keep brownfield land registers.
Research shows that unfortunately only 31% of potential self builders are aware of brownfield registers, but these databases are a valuable resource for those looking for options for greener building on land suitable for residential development.
What are the pros and cons of considering a brownfield site as a self builder?
Local green spaces are essential in capturing and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. And with research showing 28% of developers are interested in this aspect of a self build project, reducing the environmental impact on a nearby area is one of the biggest pluses for self builders. Brownfield sites’ preservation of green areas like meadows and rivers make for an ideal alternative to building on greenfields.
Another factor is the lack of greenfield sites to help meet the government’s targets for building new homes. Revamping brownfield sites satisfies the new ‘build build build’ ideals, and by taking down an old derelict building, developers are clearing what could well have been a neighbourhood eyesore. By rebuilding something new, they are contributing to a more attractive landscape.
Building on brownfield sites requires a survey being carried out to calculate the risk of potential issues associated with the land’s previous use. Factoring in the possibility of contamination, for example, should make for a better plan and a smoother build. However ‘normal’ planning applications are not necessary when building on brownfield sites, removing one of the biggest headaches associated with self builds.
How will using a brownfield site affect my mortgage?
With most lenders considering major renovations or rebuilds under the self build category, individuals seeking funding to build on a brownfield site will require a self build mortgage. Some providers may be hesitant to lend on brownfield sites, and so self builders could consider speaking with an intermediary experienced in self build mortgage applications. Working with a mortgage provider who undertakes a manual approach to assessing affordability may mean an application is more likely to be successful.
Author: Joanne Leek from Ipswich Building Society. Ipswich Building Society offers self build mortgages and operates a manual underwriting approach, so applications are reviewed by an individual, not a computer.