Good news: Brownfields account for 80% of new developments in Cambridgeshire in 2011-2012

by Ksenia Gerasimova

While there is no universally agreed definition of a brownfield, one can say that it is antonym of greenfield, land which never was in use. Often brownfield is understood as 'any recycled site which does not pose any threat to humans or the environment' (Dixon et al, 1999).

However, brownfields are also used to refer to derelict and contaminated lands, where possibility of pollution is high. Thus, monitoring and control pollution (water, soil) is essential for well-being of local environment and communities who live in vicinity of a brownfield site. Without any doubt, brownfield re-use and development is a part of sustainable development practices.

Source: Wikipedia

Under the current land use categories, two categories 'Vacant land previously developed' and 'Derelict land' refer to brownfields. The difference between them is that derelict land requires demolition work, clean-up and levelling before the actual redevelopment. So it is very costly. No wonder that most brownfields in redevelopment are from the first category. The actual redevelopment of brownfields also presents social benefits, it can create new jobs and contribute solutions to housing shortage.

The British government has committed to bring more land in sustainable use. The national target set to be achieved by 2008 was 60% of new developments to be built on previously developed land. According to National Land Use Survey from 2001, 66 000 hectare were available for re-use. The geographical spread of such land however varies from county to county. The most urbanised areas have higher concentration of brownfields, such as London area of which 90% accounts for brownfields. Often the proportion of urban land not previously developed is very small in such areas and in fact such level of brownfield re-use can indicate a high level of urbanisation.

According to the Research and Monitoring Team of Cambridge County Council, since 1999, just under 50% of business development has been completed on brownfield land. However, this proportion has been increasing over the years, with such a result that in 2011-2012 it exceeded 80% (see Table 1). Well done Cambridge!

brownfields_table Source:

Cambridgeshire County Council (2012) Growth and Economy Research and Monitoring. Business and Development in Cambridgeshire 1999-2012.
Dixon T.J. McGarty J.L., Pottinger G. (1999)'Waste not, want not?' : brownfield development and the effects of the Landfill Tax Reading: College of Estate Management
National Land Use Database (2001) Survey.