Bungalow Land (David Hunt [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Britain and especially England needs more houses.
Yes there are a million empty homes – some of which can be brought back into residential use easily (many cannot). But they aren’t all in the places where housing is needed.
There are certainly brownfield sites which can be developed into residential areas – though not all brownfield land should be developed – Lodge Hill was, after all, classed as brownfield land.
Greenfield developments are always attractive to planners and developers (and of course the owners of the greenfields) because they are easy to develop. But for many reasons (not necessarily wildlife) they are not always the best places to put houses either- unless you’re building an entire new town – or a large urban extension, like Poundbury, here in Dorchester.
Nick Boles the housing minister has recently suggested he will take “state-owned land” and give it to young people to self-build.The question arises “what state-owned land”? It’s difficult to imagine self-builders wanting to live on a far-flung redundant air base. And who would bear the costs of remediating post-industrial land to make it safe for development. Perhaps Boles is thinking about selling off Local Authority -owned land – county farms, open spaces, municipal parks. He hasn’t provided any detail yet.
I have another proposal. Let’s upcycle bungalow-land. Bungalow-land is the consequence of lax planning leading to suburban sprawl. There are around 500000 bungalows in the UK – 27000 bungalows were built a year during the 1980s.
Bungalow land is defined by the very low density of its housing – between 5 and 15 per hectare. Bungalows are also very energy inefficient, as there is no upstairs to recycle the heat generated downstairs.
The Government should compulsory purchase (they are after all happy to do this for HS2, a far less socially essential development) vast swathes of it, and then sell it off to self-builders (as Boles suggests) and not for profit housing developers, like housing associations.
Such an approach could turn 100,000 bungalows into 500,000 self-build plots and housing- association shared equity homes (all highly energy efficient). High quality green infrastructure (including some “wild” greenspace) could also be incorporated into these developments, creating a much better environment for everyone.