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Coalition stresses commitment to brownfield

"These Awards have become a key event for the brownfield community, recognising originality and excellence. Past winners have shown us what can be achieved using creative thinking to tackle a range of challenging situations and many have demonstrated the benefits of strong collaborative working. 

"The Government strongly supports the re-use of brownfield land. In many cases it continues to make sense to focus development on brownfield sites and in 2010, on a provisional estimate, 76% of dwellings were built on previously-developed land.

"The National Planning Policy Framework sets out our approach to brownfield land in the planning system. Rather than applying an inflexible national brownfield target, that could not have regard to local circumstances, we have set out an approach that encourages local authorities and their communities to decide where is best to locate development.

"Our focus has been on land of least environmental value. We wanted to recognise that some brownfield sites can be important for biodiversity or can have wider benefits for the community, for example where they have become greened-over and are used by local people as green space. We want to see local authorities making effective use of land by re-using brownfield land, provided it is not of high environmental or other social value. 

"We have been clear that local authorities can continue to set a locally appropriate target for the use of brownfield land in their areas and we've introduced this added local flexibility because local authorities frankly are best placed to understand the needs of their communities and the different land and opportunities they have.

Accelerated plans

"Many local authorities have been accelerating their plan-making since the NPPF and we would expect our approach to brownfield to be reflected in the new plans that are being proposed. Sixty-five percent of local authorities have now published their local plans compared with only 48% at the time of last Spring's ministerial statement where we announced where we were on this issue and we see very pleasingly a significant growth in the number of planning applications which are now being approved, at 87% - that is 10 year high and with higher approval rates - over 90% for major business and commercial development. "

However, Mr Foster said the time taken for acceptances is taking longer and longer and that action on this is necessary.

Quality brownfield

He said that he wanted to be absolutely clear that the Government is interested in seeing quality brownfield schemes coming through with small, medium and large schemes all having a crucially important contribution to make.

He said: "The purpose of the measures [we have and are taking] is to provide real help in providing the right conditions for local economic growth. We'll do that by removing administrative barriers, speeding up processes encouraging greater investment in housing and infrastructure which is key to economic growth.

"To take immediate action to get spades in the ground on those sites which are currently immediately stalled, we intend to legislate to allow any developer of sites which are unviable because of the number of affordable homes required to appeal the affordable element of the Section 106 agreement with immediate effect.

"To improve the performance of local planning authorities to enable quicker and better planning decisions to be taken we are going to do a number of things. We are legislating to allow major applications to be submitted and decided by the Planning Inspectorate where the local planning authority has a track record of very poor performance in speed and quality of decision making.

"We are strengthening the powers for the planning inspectors to award costs against unreasonable behaviour where cases go to appeal and we are amending the legislation to allow for a more proportionate approach to the information that accompanies planning applications.

"We are going to improve the compulsory purchase order process to enable the secretary of state to award costs to objectors when a CPO enquiry is cancelled as many of you have no doubt experienced at short notice.

"We'll allow for the disposal of land held by local authorities for planning purposes at less than best consideration without the need for the secretary of state to give his consent, and to enable decisions on major infrastructure decisions to be made more quickly we will broaden the

2008 Planning Act scope so that a much wider range of infrastructure developments to be brought within the planning regime. This will allow developers of large scale businesses and commercial developments to apply directly to the secretary of state for the option to allow the streamlined approach set out in the Planning Act and in addition to that we will amend provisions for special Parliamentary procedure where specially protected land is compulsorily acquired for major infrastructure projects and granting consent under the Planning Act of 2008 and also CPOs made and confirmed under the Acquisition of Land Act 1981."

"We also announced the review of planning practice guidance, chaired by

Lord Matthew Taylor, which will look at 6,000 pages of existing planning practice guidance... And we're also making progress towards our target of having sold off enough public sector land for 100,000 units by March 2015, much of which will obviously be on brownfield land.

"So with the Olympic Park we have shown we are world beaters, but there is long and proud record in this country of regenerating brownfield sites. You are the key drivers in giving us that proud record and I thank you for it. It has helped to regenerate areas and protected greenfield sites in many areas. And we continue to expect to see a significant amount of development to be on brownfield land. As these Awards highlight there is no shortage of excellence of schemes which have been recently delivered. They are a clear and strong inspiration for the whole industry to make use of brownfield sites and I am confident that we will continue to see high quality sites being developed."

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