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Brownfield remediation: The Answer to the UK’s Growing Inner-City Populations?

The UK has seen a rapid uptick in its population over the last two decades. To put it into perspective, between 2000 and 2020, the population grew from 58,886,100 to 67,081,200. At this rate, the population size could potentially reach around 69,207,197 by 2030.

Urban populations have also continued to grow. The city of London, for example, saw a rise of 58.3 per cent between 2014 to 2019. Innovative building and construction solutions are needed to accommodate the growing number of inner-city dwellers.

Nifty Lift – one of the largest manufacturers of mobile elevating work platforms in the UK, analyses the prospect of brownfield remediation as the answer to growing population sizes.

What is brownfield remediation?


First and foremost, professionals in the construction industry need to decide where to build new housing and accommodation units. Greenfield land, for example, presents a blank canvas for professionals to expand the size of metropolitan areas. On the other hand, brownfield land utilises previously developed lands and breathes life back into crowded cities.

The Countryside Charity, an organisation campaigning to preserve greenfield land, argues that brownfield remediation is the most suitable option for developing cityscapes because it regenerates and recycles unused land across the nation. It also reduces urban sprawling and ensures our countryside is safeguarded for future generations.

Brownfield remediation also reduces costs for the construction industry because the foundations, drainage, and electrical wiring may have already been established. It can also be easier to receive planning permissions on brownfield land. There are specific challenges, however, that construction managers must consider before wheeling in aerial work platforms. These depend on whether the area is contaminated or building demolishment is needed before construction begins.

Can brownfield remediation address the housing crisis?

Vacant land comprises a significant portion of the UK. Birmingham, for example, has 958 brownfield sites that can be utilised, amounting to a possible 37,326 housing projects. Using these spaces could help solve the housing crisis, which Marie Chadwick, a policy leader at the National Housing Federation, argues is “exceptionally bad”. The government has introduced the Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF) to address this issue. The fund amounts to £75m and offers £25m to local councils that want to develop housing on derelict or abandoned land. This has the effect of encouraging the remediation of brownfield land in cities.

Can brownfield remediation help community and professional projects?

Brownfield remediation may also benefit community projects, such as community housing. In recent years, storage containers have become a solution for these issues as they can be fitted with electricity and present a more affordable option than standard bricklaying.

Homelessness continues to be a social concern. Despite the average number of people sleeping on the streets declining within the past four years, the demographic is still 38 per cent higher than in 2010, when 1,110 people lived without a home. To tackle this issue, Embassy is creating community accommodation of 40 modular homes out of shipping containers. Embassy Village will be based near Bridgewater Canal in Manchester, developing inner cityscapes while remediating a brownfield site and offering a solution to homelessness.

On the other hand, brownfield remediation can address professional projects, including an increasing need for office spaces. In London, for example, strenuous lockdowns throughout the COVID-19n pandemic halted 50 per cent of newbuilt and ongoing construction projects. This has forced professionals to think of innovative alternatives to traditional office spaces, such as storage container offices.

Companies in Cardiff are also coming up with imaginative solutions to dwindling office spaces. Meanwhile, House, for example, is a three-storey complex that offers spaces for professionals within the city and includes communal bathrooms and a coffee shop. This concept is ready to be adopted by city councils as storage containers can be placed on the abundance of brownfield land across the nation.

To summarise

Brownfield remediation may be the answer to inner-city development. Not only can this help preserve the Great British countryside, but this also helps breathe life into previously unused land. It may also help the housing and office crises in cities around the nation.


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