ARCHIVE: e-Digest Statistics about: Land Use and Land Cover

Urbanisation in England

Demand for housing and associated infrastructure constitutes the main pressure for developing land in rural uses and for recycling land already in urban uses. Table 4 shows estimates from the Land Use Change Survey (LUCS) of the previous use of land changing to residential use in England between 1994 and 2005 and Table 5 shows the re-use of previously developed land for housing. Changes in land use to residential use tend to be recorded more quickly than for other urban uses, mostly within three years of the change taking place. Therefore 2003 and 2004 data are available, although subject to some uncertainty in both tables, and provisional estimates have been made for 2005 in Table 5.

Table 4 indicates that there has been a steady increase in the proportion of land previously developed for urban uses being re-used for residential purposes, from 46 per cent in 1994 to 62 per cent in 2005.

Table 4 also indicates that the proportion of residential development taking place on vacant previously developed land decreased from 24 to 22 per cent between 1994 and 2005. This apparent increase may partly be an effect of the recent increased frequency of surveying, which makes it more likely that the previous use is recorded as vacant rather than the preceding developed use.

Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 [2], published in March 2000, sets out the Government's target for recycling of land. This states that, by 2008, 60 per cent of additional housing should be provided on previously developed land and through the conversion of existing buildings. This target is monitored using figures derived from Land Use Change Statistics (LUCS). Table 5 shows that, in 2005, 73 per cent of new dwellings were built on previously developed land. This includes the conversion of existing buildings, which is estimated to contribute three percentage points. Table 5 also shows that, in 2005, 62 per cent of land for new housing was previously developed. The difference between these two figures is largely due to the higher density of new dwellings on previously developed land, which is mostly in urban areas (on average, 29 dwellings per hectare) and the lower density of development on non-previously developed land (23 dwellings per hectare). These figures were published LUCS 18 (See DCLG website) in July 2006.

Figures published in LUCS 18A (See DCLG website) in October 2003 show that, between 1996 and 1998, around 8,000 hectares per year changed from non-previously developed land to developed land. Around 2,700 hectares changed from developed to non-previously developed land, although this was mainly from quarries and mineral workings returning to a non-developed state. These figures have been relatively consistent since 1990. More recent figures are not available because rural areas are updated infrequently, sometimes only every five years.

The National Land Use Database of Previously Developed Land (NLUD-PDL) provides information on amounts of brownfield land and exactly where it is. It is an annual survey that collects information on all significant brownfield sites in England, with information on their size, location, planned use and housing capacity. It covers vacant and derelict land and buildings and also land currently in use with potential for redevelopment. The data is from a voluntary return by local authorities. From the 2002 survey there were an estimated 66,000 hectares of previously developed land available for development. Some 29,000 hectares were potentially available for housing, with a capacity for 880,000 new dwellings. Further information is on the National Land Use Database web site.

New homes built on previously developed land

In England, provisional figures for 2008 indicate that 78 per cent of new homes (including the conversion of existing buildings, which are estimated to add about 3 percentage points to the national figure) were built on previously developed "brownfield" land. The Government has set a target of 60 per cent to be achieved by 2008.

The percentage is much higher in urban areas and there is also considerable regional variation. Over the period from 2000 to 2005, London had the highest rate of generally over 90 per cent (excluding conversions) and the East Midlands and the South West had the lowest rates both at around 50 per cent.

Further Information:
Data Tables:
4 Previous use of land changing to residential use: 1994-2005 XLS
5 Re-use of previously developed land for housing: 1994-2005 XLS
6 Projections of urban growth, by county: 1991-2016 XLS
Chart 7 New homes built on previously developed land XLS
Sustainable Development Indicators:
Contextual indicators: Protecting our natural resources and enhancing the environment Land use
Internet Links:
e-digest: Land use
e-digest: Land use changes
National Land Use Database
Study into the Environmental Impacts of Increasing the Supply of Housing in the UK, Defra
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Planning statistics
DCLG: Land use change statistics
References, further reading and links to other resources:
[2] Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (2000). Planning and Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing, DETR London.
[3] Department of Environment Transport and the Regions, Quality of Life Counts, (1999), DETR London.
[4] Department of the Environment, (1996). Urbanisation in England: Projections 1991-2016.

Your questions and comments about information presented on this page are welcome. Contact information and Email . Copyright of data and/or information presented or attached in this document may not reside solely with this Department. Please see guidance on Copyright.

Page last modified: 25 November 2009
Page published: 1 June 2005