The report finds that Brownfield Land Registers (BLRs) are being misused and hindering the development of new homes. As a result, U+I has called on the government to establish a digital planning taskforce.
Those 348,000 homes – which would be more than the government has pledged to build each year by the middle of the decade – are currently being thwarted because of brownfield land that is not being registered as available for development due to problems with the quality of the data in the planning system.
The report, ‘Data and the Planning System’, helps to shed new light on the quality of data submitted through BLRs following research undertaken earlier this year.
In the areas studied, the research showed that 348,000 new homes could be built on unregistered land, amounting to nearly 29% of housing need arising by 2030.
BLRs are compiled and maintained by local authorities to provide public information about the availability of brownfield land, described as land that has previously been built on and now sits empty.
Private companies use BLRs to identify potential development sites and bring forward new housing schemes, but U+I’s research highlighted a lack of clarity and consistency in how data is uploaded to BLRs within a number of local authorities. This is leading to ‘serious distortions’ in the industry’s understanding of brownfield land availability, hindering development and preventing the construction of new homes.
The investigation found that across the country, there is a divergence in the way local authorities complete these registers. As a result, many are including sites unsuitable for redevelopment, omitting suitable sites because of a lack of clear guidance, or incorrectly assigning site ownership.
A lack of data literacy within planning departments is another major issue, meaning some sites were assigned coordinates locating them well outside of their local authority boundary, and - in some cases - in different countries entirely.
The analysis of available BLRs across Greater London, Greater Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham and East Berkshire found plenty of available land for redevelopment, but U+I has cautioned that that these figures are likely to be a considerable underestimate because accurate data is simply unavailable.
With the government’s controversial Planning White Paper currently undergoing consultation, U+I is urging Whitehall and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to establish a digital taskforce to create a data-led planning system that streamlines the development process for all parties.
It says members would be drawn from local government, property development and PropTech, to collaboratively drive innovation and change across the industry. In addition, U+I is calling on the government to provide extra funding to local authorities to employ a ‘digital specialist’ to help them transition to a 21st century planning system, as well as appointing a minister within MHCLG to oversee data and digitisation.
Malcolm Hockaday, director of planning at U+I, commented: “As a regeneration specialist committed to working in partnership with local authorities to deliver homes and communities that rejuvenate our towns and cities, we need a robust and accurate understanding of brownfield land availability across the country.”
“Sadly, our investigation has revealed this is not the case. If we are to recover our economy from the devastating impact of Covid-19, the government must make good on its commitment to deliver a digital-first planning system, underpinned by robust and accurate data.”
He concluded: “We need this data to understand where there is a need for new housing and investment and support those local authorities who want to build new communities and reinvigorate left-behind places. But if we are to build back better, we must have the information to allow us to do it.”
Malhotra Group PLC unveils ambitious India project
The head of a leading PLC has unveiled plans to create a multi-million pound development in his home town in India.
Meenu Malhotra, chair and founder of Newcastle-based Malhotra Group PLC, has announced the £150 million scheme in Ludhiana, Punjab – one of the largest investments in the company’s 40-year history.
Malhotra founded the company, which has its headquarters in Newcastle and operates across leisure, care and developments, along with owning a large, national, commercial property portfolio.
He has always had a long-held dream to create a development in his home country on a 12-15 acre site he has owned for several years.
All the consents needed for this mega project – including planning permissions - are being granted via a single window process, which should allow the development to get underway this year.
The ambitious ‘one-stop shop’ plan– which is set to create around 2,000 jobs – will include the creation of 11 towers which will house 1,100 two and three-bedroomed apartments, as well as a 550,000 sq ft shopping mall with national and international retail outlets and restaurants. There is also set to be a hotel and multiplex cinema.
Situated within five miles of the bustling city of Ludhiana, in the north of the country, the project will create a secure and gated complex offering a wide range of sports facilities. This will include a swimming pool, badminton and tennis courts, snooker and table tennis rooms and walking tracks.
The central tower – which will be 15 storeys high – will also include an additional restaurant for residents, operating 24/7.
The road network around Ludhiana – the business centre of Northern India - has been invested in heavily by the city and the Punjab Government, giving the project site excellent connectivity to internal roads and the newly developed highways.
A whole host of amenities are also within easy reach, including schools, universities, places of worship and hospitals, as well as local bus and railway stations.
Maholtra insists the scheme is taking into account environmental considerations, with the installation of green energy solar panels and underground car parking to minimise air pollution – something which is a significant problem in India.
The Malhotra Group PLC is now in talks with leading Indian project management and consultancy companies to develop the scheme, with recruitment already underway.
“I have always referred to Newcastle as my adopted home and am very grateful to the people of the North East for their continued support,” Malhotra said.
“But at the same time, I have always been a patriotic Indian, proud Punjabi and my hometown of Ludhiana remains very close to my heart.”
“I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for the area and I have been delighted by the encouragement and support we’ve had from the Punjab Government who have welcomed the project and the mega investment we are making.”
He added: “It will provide much needed job creation and personally will give me the opportunity to share my passion mentoring SMEs, assisting start-ups and little angels, which I’ve done for many years in the UK.”
To lead the development on behalf of both the Malhotra Group and the family, he will split his time between India and the UK while the project is being constructed.
“I will remain at the helm of UK operations, however during my visits to India the company’s day-to day-business affairs will be in the very capable hands of my younger brother Bunty, who heads our care division, and my eldest son, Atul, who heads our leisure division,” he said.
“My plan is now to focus on the job at hand for the benefit of the people and economy of Ludhiana, by delivering an international facility. It is a huge responsibility, most humbling and I feel very privileged to be working in India.”