Building sustainable communities through brownfield regeneration

As part of its long-term plan for housing, the Government recently announced that every council in England needs to prioritise brownfield development, becoming more flexible in approving planning applications. The raft of policy measures announced by the Government demonstrate that it is taking immediate action to address the housing shortage, and these new planning rules will deliver homes in areas that need and want them most – such as big cities like London and Manchester, where demand is high and existing infrastructure is already in place to support new development.  

And we know that the land is out there. A report by CPRE, the countryside charity, revealed that over 1.2 million homes could be built on 23,000 brownfield sites across the UK.  

At Blueprint, we have 20 years of experience in developing brownfield land in the Midlands. We’ve always advocated for the use of brownfield land and bringing underutilised areas back to life, whilst respecting the heritage of the place and the communities who call it home. Quality homes and mixed-use regeneration are the cornerstones of our development philosophy, so we welcome a revision to the planning policy to favour brownfield sites – providing it is not at the expense of quality and strategic placemaking. 

Our passion for brownfield development stems from our ongoing commitment to delivering social and environmental impact. All of our work is driven by igloo’s Footprint® approach which guides design and investment decisions around six key dimensions – Community and Wellbeing (People); Placemaking and Biodiversity (Place); and Climate Positive and Circular Economy (Planet). We know where we can add the most value, and all of our potential projects undergo a Footprint screening process. 

Collaboration is key to everything we do, engaging with the neighbourhoods we develop in, understanding the needs of stakeholders and engaging with partners as early as possible in the process to socialise our ideas. Early and regular dialogue helps us shape a development, bringing together a shared vision.  

When done well, brownfield development can reinvigorate an area, generating inward investment and creating employment opportunities. However, there are barriers. This type of development does come with time and cost constraints, so at a time when many local authorities are facing financial challenges and limited resources, support needs to be provided to reduce these limitations and enable projects to progress. Public funding models (like the Levelling Up fund) which recognise and seek social impact with cash returns will merge public funding with private investment to deliver strong outcomes, ensuring local authorities can support and deliver projects in their area which will have a long-term positive impact.  

We’re passionate about seeing areas being brought back to life. Some of our most recent work in Nottingham has opened up the historic River Trent basin and views across to the Hook Nature Reserve that were blocked off from the public for decades. We’ve also transformed the Mundella school in the Meadows, from a vacant and semi-derelict building to beautiful, energy efficient courtyard homes, whilst sending no waste to landfill and retaining important art deco details. 

Case study: Trent Basin 

Once an important inland port, Trent Basin ceased in operations in the 1960s, cutting off public access to the banks of the River Trent for decades, until Blueprint began developing the new neighbourhood in the mid-2010s. 

Trent Basin, a 250-acre site, represents an early and crucial phase of a major waterside renaissance project and a catalyst for change. The project is located within Nottingham Waterside, an area widely acknowledged as one of Nottingham’s greatest but least developed assets.  

Our vision was for a new sustainable neighbourhood with a strong identity and sense of place. With open views over water and green spaces, the site is surrounded by nature, but is just a stone’s throw from the city centre. Phases one to three are now complete, with phase four underway. The neighbourhood has been recognised internationally as a model for sustainable energy whilst closer to home it has won the Exemplar Housing award – RIBA East Midlands, and the Sustainable Development of the Year award from Insider Midlands. 

Trent Basin is also home to a groundbreaking community energy project, with renewable energy stored in one of Europe’s largest community energy batteries (supplied by Tesla). The Trent Basin Energy Services Company, set up to run the project, generates income by selling energy to the National Grid and is owned by Trent Basin residents, who were also able to take advantage of a free smart home package to enable them to monitor their energy usage. 

Seeing a brownfield site become an asset to the community is the most rewarding part of the process. That’s why we’re proud to focus on brownfield development, and we welcome the planning changes from Government to encourage other developers to do the same. Together, we can simultaneously address the need for housing and reduce our impact on our planet.  

Latest News

Building sustainable communities through brownfield regeneration

4th April 2024

As part of its long-term plan for housing, the Government recently announced that every council in England needs to prioritise brownfield development, becoming more flexible in approving planning applications. The raft of policy measures announced by the Government demonstrate that it is taking immediate action to address the housing shortage, and these new planning rules will deliver homes in areas […]

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