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Brownfield – space for over 20,000 homes on recycled land in Hertfordshire

27th November 2021

At a national level CPRE’s latest report on the state of brownfield in England has found that previously developed land could accommodate over 1.3 million new homes – an increase of almost 10% on 2020.

But with the proportion of brownfield plots with planning permission currently the lowest since records began – down from 53% last year to 44% now – it is clear that, despite recent warm words from the government, these sites are not being prioritised.

Instead, housing developers continue to target the countryside’s green fields, even as they become more vital than ever for tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.

Our Recycling our land report provides the details of our research.

What’s the brownfield situation locally?

Here in Hertfordshire, the most recent Brownfield Land Register data from the ten Local Authorities shows there is space for over 20,000 homes on previously developed land.  The 2021 data shows an increase from 2020 in both the number of brownfield sites identified and the total hectares available.  Currently 338 sites covering over 350 hectares are listed.  What’s more, 145 of these 338 sites currently have planning permission for nearly 7,000 dwellings.  Summary data is presented here and the full data-set is also available.

Local authority Date register last updated (as of May 2021)


Total No. Sites Total No. Hectares Total No. Units
Broxbourne Mar 19 31 41.91 2838
Dacorum Nov 20 40 72 2954
East Hertfordshire Dec 17 27 34.51 1334
Hertsmere Dec 17 37 19.81 1630
North Hertfordshire Dec 20 24 23.69 954
St Albans City & District Dec 20 25 30.05 1173
Stevenage Dec 18 23 26.2 3994
Three Rivers Dec 20 60 49.68 1232
Watford Dec 18 7 2.07 71
Welwyn Hatfield Oct 20 64 54.49 3987
Total   338 354.41 20167


We call on all Hertfordshire local authorities to ensure these sites are developed, with the right homes for local people’s needs, before building on green fields and in the countryside.

Build on brownfield first – a ‘win-win’ solution

CPRE is calling for new national planning policies to prioritise the recycling of land for housing. This approach could allow areas with derelict or underutilised sites to enjoy huge economic and social benefits from the transformation of these sites into quality homes.

CPRE President Emma Bridgewater has personal experience of reviving derelict land and buildings in the West Midlands through her Stoke pottery factory. She launched our report by calling for the return of a ‘brownfield first’ policy, as a ‘win-win solution that holds back the tide of new buildings in pristine countryside and aids urban regeneration at a stroke.’

A change of direction?

Emma also welcomed the government’s ‘warm words on developing brownfield land first’ as ‘a welcome change of direction’, referring to the new housing secretary Michael Gove’s recent evidence to the housing, communities and local government select committee.

On 8 November, Mr Gove told MPs, ‘I am very keen, working with Homes England and local government, to get a brownfield first policy that really works, and to provide people with the sort of housing that is welcomed and needed … and, I hope, affordable in urban settings that we need to concentrate on.’

'Making the most of previously developed land is a government priority and it will help protect our cherished countryside and green spaces.'
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

This is great news for our campaign, and follows the housing secretary’s October pledge that ‘making the most of previously developed land is a government priority and it will help protect our cherished countryside and green spaces.’

We at CPRE have long argued that well connected brownfield sites can provide the homes people need – close to jobs, services and existing infrastructure.

Time for action

CPRE believes the best way to achieve this is to incorporate a comprehensive ‘brownfield first’ policy in the National Planning Policy Framework, to ensure suitable brownfield land is developed before any greenfield or Green Belt land is considered. To be clear, we’re not talking about the disused sites that are important for wildlife, but the wasted and underutilised spaces that blight so many communities.

Help us support urban regeneration and save green fields

Want to help us keep the pressure on the government to introduce these sustainable solutions?  Please join our movement as a member, or make a one-off or regular donation.  Your support is greatly appreciated and could make a real difference.

If you’d like to get involved further, take a look at our Brownfield toolkit.  The toolkit is designed to help you tell your local council about vacant sites. It’s an easy way to help make sure suitable land is constantly being added to Brownfield Land Registers. Why not see what wasted spaces could be regenerated in your area?

demolition in progress at a brownfield, or previously developed, industrial site, to prepare for redevelopment
Avalon Construction Photography / Alamy
a dark sky at night with hundreds of stars visible in the milky way overhead