St Helens Council is taking part in a national pilot which looks at innovative ways to bring small brownfield sites back into use.
The study – funded and supported by the Local Government Association (LGA) and public sector consultancy firm, Local Partnerships - will focus on small brownfield sites where the council currently has limited powers to intervene due to private ownership.
Such sites might only have enough room on for 10 houses, or may be difficult to bring forward for development due to the associated costs and can often be seen as an eye-sore in communities if left undeveloped.
Last May, shortly after being elected as Leader of St Helens Council, Councillor Derek Long stressed as part of his vision for the future of the borough that the council will adopt a ‘balanced’ growth plan for the long- term benefit of the people of St Helens, insisting that the council will be sensitive in the way it carries out its plan by adopting a brownfield-first policy.
Seventy-eight per cent of recent housing development in the borough has been developed on brownfield, however much of the remaining brownfield land feasible for development requires funding in excess of £40 million to be brought back into use.
With this in mind, Councillor Long submitted a motion at a full council meeting in the town hall chamber in July 2018, lobbying central government to press for immediate funding to ensure more brownfield land can be released in the borough.
Welcoming the news that St Helens – together with Milton Keyes – is taking part in the pilot, Councillor Long said: "I said I wanted balanced development in the borough and that I wanted a renewed focus on bringing brownfield sites back into use.
“Part of the problem with this is that such sites are usually unviable to develop and that councils have very limited powers to force land-owners to deliver.”
Councillor Long added: “This project will allow us to understand in more detail the issues we face in bringing a particular piece of previously developed land back into use and look at new and innovative ways to make development happen.
“This will not negate the long-term need to develop on large sites, but I said I was committed to brownfield first where possible and this project is an example of how I intend meeting that pledge.”
Martin Walker, Programme Director (Housing) at Local Partnerships said: “We are keen to work with St Helens on identifying new models for bringing brownfield sites forward. It is a national issue that needs addressing and what we learn in St Helens will hopefully be rolled out over the country.”