Issues of the Development of Brownfield Sites

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Brownfield land, or previously developed land (PDL), “… is that which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.” This is the definition given in Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) Housing, by the British Government, however in the United States the definition has been notably tweaked over time. The US Environment Protection Agency in 1997 quoted brownfields as being “… abandoned, idled or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination.” This description was however updated in 2002 to become “… real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or re-use of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.” . The development of brownfield sites has been an area of great debate and discussion for many years. There are numerous issues surrounding their re-use from almost every viewpoint. Developers have historically been reluctant and unenthusiastic to make use of them for any new planned schemes for a variety of reasons. There can be great costs associated with the cleanup of a brownfield site depending on its previous employment.

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Another area mentioned is that the regulatory environment has changed since 1996, and has altered how waste is handled and regulated considerably. Since October 2007 all waste has had to be treated before it is sent to landfill, and liquid waste has been banned from landfill sites. In 2005 the ‘Hazardous Waste Directive’ applied increased controls to hazardous waste resulting in the prices for it to be taken as landfill rising sharply, and the paper points out that landfill tax would now only be a small proportion of the overall costs of sending hazardous waste to landfill. Also in this document the Government expresses a desire to update and amend policies if necessary pointing out that all measures taken must be monitored and possibly altered to ensure maximum compliance and success. “The Government remains committed to these aims and to the continuation of the relief, but after 6 years of operation it is time to consider how the scope and take up of the relief can be improved to help it more efficiently deliver the objectives set out in 2001.” (HMG, Tax incentives for development of brownfield land: a consultation, 2007) . It is important that the necessity to potentially alter regulations, incentives or policies to guarantee the best results is acknowledged by the Government, as it shows a willingness to be proactive and manage the issue.

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Another obstacle that can occur with brownfields and did indeed in this case was serial ownership and the difficulties involved of tracing all owners and forging agreement between them of the intended plans. The Boulten and Paul works were owned by Gazely Properties Ltd having purchased the works after its closure in the 1980s. The railway lands were owned by British Rail Property Board until its privatisation when they were transferred to Railtrack pre Network Rail. These two, Gazely Properties and Railtrack ultimately founded a joint development company on an equal partnership basis. The other land included in the site area was in the possession of NCC. The proposed plan itself for a mix of residential, leisure and ‘shed’ style retail was acceptable to most members of the local community, some residents rallied against this form of urbanisation due to the aesthetics of the retail not fitting in with the historical city. Despite their efforts however, the council stuck with the plans and agreed that it go ahead as planned with reference to the importance of the food store which would serve the south east of the city. When the site came to ascendancy as a hub .

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