The biggest problem facing firms is the volume of development that Whitehall wants to see on recycled land. Its target for 3.8 million new homes by 2016 came with the caveat that 60% of them must be built on land that had been used before.
This means there is a scramble for recyclable plots that are not contaminated and do not carry the burden of clean-up costs. Unofficial estimates put the amount of contaminated space in the UK at between 50 000 and 200 000 ha, which could cost between £2bn and £20bn to clean up. The situation is made more acute by the shortage of retail and domestic development land.
Other problems centre on the web of laws and regulations that affect owners and occupiers of brownfield sites, and make deals risky, time-consuming and expensive to negotiate.
Help is at hand from the revised PPG3 housing guidance published in March, which should relieve developers of some of the burden of research into sites. And, later this year, the government will publish a National Land Use database of derelict and brownfield sites. Along with these measures, specialist agencies and firms are emerging to help developers.
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