Brownfield or greenfield – it’s not a black and white issue

Wednesday 5th August 2020

Let’s change our assumptions about developing land – that’s the message from Buglife, who want to remind politicians it’s not as simple as brown versus green.

The Government has renewed their focus on brownfield sites for housing, in their latest planning system reforms.

However, it is clear that not all brownfield is suitable for development. This has been demonstrated by The Land Trust and Buglife working in partnership on the former oil refinery in Canvey Wick, Essex, hailed as a ‘brownfield rainforest’ and working with developer, Goodman to transform a disused power station into a wildlife haven at Oliver Road Lagoons, Thurrock.

Jamie Robins, planning lead at Buglife, said: “It seems the Government have all failed to recognise the importance that some brownfields have on wildlife or as public open space. As well as being wildlife havens, brownfield sites often provide communities with the only opportunity to engage with nature in urban areas, offering many more experiences of wildflowers and wildlife than many over-manicured parks with their billiard green lawn and lolly pop trees.”

Brownfield sites can provide important habitats that have been lost from our wider landscape. Since the end of World War Two, 97 per cent of wildflower meadows have been lost, leaving important pollinators, especially bees, in serious trouble. Many of these species now find refuge on brownfield sites.”

Buglife do support brownfield developments in principal, since the majority of brownfield land is of low value for wildlife and suitable for development. But it is important to recognise the brownfield sites which have very high environmental and societal value, and it is essential that these are properly considered in the planning process.

“As the need to adapt to climate change grows, brownfield sites in inner cities and towns have substantial value as soakaways and heat islands, reducing the impact of climate change on communities in cities,” Robins added. “We need to have a proper debate about this issue and work together to develop the criteria for identifying the suitability of the land, whether this is for development, for public open space or both.”