The web site is the brainchild of developer Ian Humphreys, who says the idea grew out of a frustrating experience he had in 1998 when he tried to buy a burned-out, boarded-up nightclub in Leeds. “I asked Leeds council about it and they gave me a list of four or five other interested parties to track down and talk to. It takes a lot of time and money to research this stuff – who owns the site, what contamination it has, what previous planning applications are attached to it, how to take it forward. There were just too many people involved. It was too difficult.”
Brownfieldsites.com’s directory of sites (100 so far, mainly in London, Sheffield and Bristol) includes those submitted by local authorities, utility companies and land agents. Landowners and agents that register are subject to financial and legal screening. Using a password, they can enter and edit the site details.
Developers looking for sites register their name and address. They can search by location, distance from a particular town, value and size. Marketing manager Mary Hayes says:
“They can access whatever information we have gathered on a site. Has someone attempted to develop it before? Is it contaminated? What is the cost of remediation? What is the planning status? Why did previous schemes not get off the ground?”
Brownfieldsites.com will also invite developers to submit overviews of proposed brownfield projects, including details of funding they are seeking. “We will advise on what resources are needed to make a brownfield development viable – they may need English Partnerships to help out with the remediation, for instance. For funding, we can put them in touch with high street banks and pension funds that have expressed an interest in financing brownfield development.”
The site will also have a directory of construction professionals with experience of brownfield projects in different regions across the UK.
Also provided will be links to related Internet services. These include relevant sections of detr.gov.uk, such as developments in PPG3; businessauctions.com, an on-line auction service for business assets, from computers to timber, cranes and power plant; ecuFinder, an on-line grant search facility for the UK and Europe; brownfield risk insurance specialist Certa, with which brownfieldsites.com is negotiating special rates for its customers; and groundwork.org.uk and changingplaces.org.uk, which between them have a £22m budget for grass-roots community regeneration projects.
Brownfieldsites.com will also provide bulletin boards and host on-line forums where the public can comment on controversial developments. “We are conscious that every regeneration project affects the community, and they should have the opportunity to have their say,” says Hayes.
Brownfieldsites.com will generate revenue by taking a commission on sales of development sites through its on-line service, and on fees for jobs won by construction professionals through the site.
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Brownfieldsites.com: Sites and skills on-line