June 26, 2020

Greenfield vs Brownfield: Which is the better option for you?

Greenfield vs Brownfield: Which is the better option for you?

Statistics suggest that more than 200,00 new houses need to be built each year just to keep up with UK demand. The shortfall not only pushes up house prices but when viewed alongside the country’s tough planning policies and zoning issues overall development can slow down.

Most local councils are keen to regenerate older or derelict brownfield sites and buildings into viable properties so it’s often easier to get planning permission. 

Development on greenfield sites is restricted because it’s perceived that these areas provide a buffer between towns and also preserve the pristine nature of the surrounding countryside so local councils focus on promoting development on brownfield sites within urban areas instead.

Local councils’ resistance to building on greenfield sites is based on the concerns that

  • it may encourage more traffic congestion as locals commute from urban areas to the countryside 
  • may endanger wildlife and has a negative impact on farming 
  • development could be built on floodplains and other sites where environmental disasters are more prone, with devastating effects on residents 

The need for decontamination and site clearance on brownfield sites can vastly increase the budget and extend the development window, so to meet the growing need for development increasing pressure is being placed on local councils to simplify property development procedures for greenfield sites.

Development Pros and Cons Brownfield vs Greenfield sites

Managed effectively as sustainable development, brownfield sites could provide affordable housing, create employment opportunities, promote and conserve nature and local wildlife, all while offering the local community spaces to live, work and play.

Above all, the transformation of a brownfield site is an important part of sustainable urban renewal and can have a positive impact on surrounding property values. Brownfield development is an ideal means to revitalise an area.

Redeveloping on brownfield sites also carries many economic perks. Abandoned industrial sites can be transformed into shopping centres, thriving offices, public parks, family homes and more. They can breathe new life into neighbourhoods, and encourage the transformation of towns and cities by attracting a new lease of life.

During the site selection process, greenfield versus brownfield is a major decision. Should you build on a greenfield site, which could require far less clearing than a brownfield site but may often be further out of town or, should you choose a brownfield site closer to infrastructure but which could require costly environmental restoration?

Twenty years ago this was a simple choice. Greenfield sites were more abundant and closer to town. Brownfields were risky to develop, time consuming and expensive to clean up. These days consideration isn’t only all about cost and construction time line but also image. Major brands can elevate their image by committing to a community by transforming one of the highly visible but less appealing local properties into one of the new attractive buildings in the area. Although clearing the land of its previous property development can be expensive and could also be in close proximity to other infrastructure which could appeal aspects of its development and limit its potential.

The most significant difference between greenfield and brownfield sites are that a greenfield site has never been developed. A greenfield is an area of agricultural or forest land or some other undeveloped site which the local council may even have earmarked for development in the future. A brownfield site is an abandoned commercial development where hazardous substances or contaminants are typically present. 

Greenfield sites are desirable locations for certain types of development as they are often on the edge of towns and cities and may have good access with less congestion and represent a more pleasant environment. An added benefit is that there may be space to expand the development in the future.

As greenfields are untouched land they’re usually in pretty good condition to develop, making them a cost effective proposition. However, the development of a greenfield impacts heavily on the environment. Building on new land can lead to deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats.

6 Pros of Brownfield Development 

  1. Existing buildings may be split up into more homes on any one site 
  2. Reduces urban sprawl as it makes use of previously developed land and/or buildings 
  3. Transforms unsightly buildings into modern properties 
  4. Redevelopment in these urban areas could reduce the demand for car use so there may be an air quality benefit  
  5. Often reduces purchase costs making sourcing of development funding easier 
  6. Shorter, less complicated planning permission process

4 Pros of Greenfield Development

  1. Can be cheaper to build on as less site clearance may be needed  
  2. Often the development build phase does not interfere with local residents as no densely urban areas are in close proximity 
  3. Construction on virgin land allows for the implementation of new, eco aware, sustainable building designs 
  4. An opportunity to create a healthier environment for locals to live in

Understandably, greenfield sites need to be protected, as over development can be devastating for rural communities. However, with the increase in demand for housing and the limited supply of available brownfield sites, pressure will move to developing on the outskirts of towns and cities.

A compromise must be reached with an unequivocal commitment to sustainable development. No longer should buildings merely house their residents, they must also protect the future of the environment both during and after the construction process. Building greener, energy efficient homes and reducing waste. 

By examining every aspect of the development process, from planning to construction materials, we can mitigate much of the unwanted impact on the surrounding environment.

This would lessen the debate over whether greenfield vs brownfield sites are more appropriate and instead would encourage the right kind of development to the benefit for both inhabitants and the surrounding environment. The future proof, ideal solution would be to build more garden cities.

While it’s important to consider investing in property on unused brownfield sites, we should remain aware that in areas of uncontrollable urban growth, property opportunities on greenfield sites may provide the most viable option to alleviate the lack of housing. 

Canterwood and their partners can assist with any information and assistance on your planning, give us a shout today.

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