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Oct 08

Why should you consider a brownfield site for your next self build project?

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In addition to the government’s ‘build build build‘ announcement to upgrade Britain’s infrastructure, it has also promised to build 300,000 new homes per year. Doing this in a way that isn’t detrimental to the environment may seem like a tall order but the answer could lie with brownfield sites. By focusing on disused land, there’s plenty of capacity available for new homes which has the benefit of also reducing the impact on our green spaces.

Understandably so, the term ‘brownfield site’ is not widely known or used by the general public but following numerous government announcements on the topic, it is starting to become more recognised.

But in case you missed it, here we cover what exactly a brownfield site is and why they could be of interest to self builders.


What is a brownfield site?

Put simply, a brownfield site is a previously developed plot of land that has been used for industrial, commercial, or agricultural purposes, whereas greenfield sites are sites that have never been built on before. Common examples of plots that would qualify as a brownfield site are abandoned storage units, derelict warehouses or even disused petrol stations. In most circumstances, brownfield sites don’t include barn conversions, garden plots or replacement dwellings.

Brownfield plots offer a number of benefits for self builders and can provide extremely exciting opportunities, particularly for those who are after a more urban or industrial feel to their property.


What is the brownfield register?

As of 2017, local authorities were legally obliged to keep a register of brownfield land that is suitable for residential development. This register was created to help self builders and commercial developers highlight potential brownfield plots in their area.

These registers are not massively promoted at present, meaning that in some areas there could be a veritable treasure trove of potential sites. It all depends on how much time and effort each local authority has put into maintaining the list.

In order to be included on the register, a site must meet certain criteria such as being free from any ownership or legal issues and be capable of delivering at least five extra dwellings.


What is the environmental impact of building on brownfield?

The government must tread a fine line between the need for more new housing and protecting the country’s limited green spaces. With towns and cities across the country growing exponentially, the surrounding area is often hugely impacted as a result.

However, brownfield sites already exist, so by promoting these areas to self builders, the local authority is able to reduce the impact of development elsewhere, particularly on the surrounding countryside.

It is common for many of these sites to have been unoccupied for a number of years, so by removing derelict buildings and rejuvenating the site, the developer is not only creating a new home for themselves but also doing social good by improving the area for the whole community.


What mortgage considerations must self builders consider?

When budgeting for a brownfield renovation, it’s vital to ensure that all costs are based on a self build mortgage, as opposed to a standard residential mortgage. Even if it is not a complete rebuild project, the majority of lenders will still require the borrower to take out a self build mortgage.

Some lenders may also be reluctant to lend on brownfield sites, which is why it can be useful  to seek the advice of an intermediary with expertise in this area. When looking for mortgage providers, it’s more likely that you will be accepted by a provider who undertakes manual lending where individual circumstances can be taken into consideration.

For many self builders, brownfields sites aren’t something they would usually consider. However, with careful planning and consideration, they can be a fruitful opportunity and provide the chance to live somewhere more unique.

Richard Norrington is CEO of Ipswich Building Society. Ipswich Building Society offers self build mortgages and operates a manual underwriting approach, so applications are reviewed by an individual, not a computer.




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