Less than a third of city land is developed, new figures show

Posted On 22 Nov 2022 at 4:09 pm

Less than a third of the city’s land is developed, new figures show – the smallest amount of any similar-sized unitary authority in the south of England.

Latest land use statistics published by the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show that just 28.4% of land in Brighton and Hove has been developed.

This is mainly because a huge 40% of the city’s 83 square kilometer area is in the South Downs National Park – with the rest of the undeveloped land made up of gardens, forest, parks, farms, open land and the sea.

Of the land in the city listed as developed the largest elements are:

  • Roads, transport and utilities, which occupy 12.2% of the land area
  • Housing including institutional and communal accommodation (7.5%)
  • Community, leisure and recreational buildings (4.7%), and
  • Industry and commerce (including offices, retail, storage and warehousing) which accounts for just 1% of our land area.

The council says amongst other councils in the south of England which are also classified as unitary authorities and have a similar sized population per kilometer of area, Brighton and Hove has by far the lowest proportion of developed land according to the figures.

Portsmouth and Southampton both have approximately 50% of their land developed, and no other comparable authority area is below 40%.

Councillor Leo Littman, Chair of the Planning Committee, said: “In creating our City Plan we have remained conscious of the need to achieve a balanced and sustainable approach.

“We have to weigh the city’s development needs, particularly for jobs and homes, against the continuing need to protect our environments and the nationally designated landscapes that surround the city.

We have many exciting development projects underway across the city, and a commitment to deliver high quality and affordable housing – to ensure our city thrives and grows in the future.

“To balance this, we are committed to safeguarding our green infrastructure.

“The policies in the recently adopted City Plan Part 2 reflect this, ensuring that development proposals must demonstrate that they will contribute positively to our green and open spaces, enhance biodiversity and conserve nature across the city.”

Developed land use in unitary authorities with population density of 3,000 or more people per square kilometre

  • Brighton & Hove 28.4%
  • Plymouth 40.7%
  • Southend 42.0%
  • Reading 43.3%
  • Bristol 45.1%
  • Southampton 49.7%
  • Portsmouth 51.3%
  1. chris Reply

    We need less people here. Simple. We are not a city we are a seaside town, no matter how much councillors want it to be so.

    • Benjamin Reply

      Unfortunately, despite your wish for it to be otherwise, we are a city, by every definition of the term. We would actually do better with more people, what’s hurting the city significantly is empty second homes, as these sit there, providing no benefit to the city or local business.

  2. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    And the stats prove what exactly? As the article says, a lot of the undeveloped land is within the National Park and another chunk is parks etc. Where there has been new development it has often been tall generic blocks of flats which are out of keeping with the city architecture in general.

    Take Reading as an example. Sure, it has much more developed land, but it is just basically an urban environment, not a resort or tourist destination.

    Like most stats, these numbers give no weight to context and are totally meaningless, just like the Government’s top-down housing target diktat.

    • Benjamin Reply

      It’s actually some missed information in the article, the percentage refers to areas that can be developed, and excludes places such as AONBs and parks. I can see how confusion can be caused if one has not read the primary source.

      It’s a very interesting stat in actuality because it spawns a series of questions on finding out why we are so different. In a manner, just like how you presented Reading unique circumstances.

      • Benjamin Reply

        I’m going to correct myself here, I did the math and took out the South Downs myself, we’re more like 47.2% of space has been developed.

  3. Bear Road resident Reply

    “We have many exciting development projects underway across the city, and a commitment to deliver high quality and affordable housing – to ensure our city thrives and grows in the future.”
    I.e. Endless student housing blocks in the actual city and housing for the rest on nature reserves miles from any amenities /public transport…
    Never Normal Brighton.

    • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

      Exactly. Who, if anyone, gets excited about these so-called development projects? What does high quality actually mean (nothing, it’s all total dross) and affordable for whom? Littman lives in the same magic mushroom world as the rest of the Greens (and some Labour councillors).

      As you say or imply, actual taxpaying residents are horrified at the burgeoning and very ugly (non-taxpaying) student blocks in the city; by all accounts the students are not keen on them and prefer to live in HMOs. Plus the numbers of students on Mickey Mouse degree courses, which are of no benefit whatsoever to anyone in the UK.

      I just read today about the new planning application for an Aldi in Hove (the Snaky Bottom thing) and they seem to be crowing that there will be a new bus service with only 500 metres to walk from the ugly and generic store to the stop. Who in their right mind wants to stagger 500m from the store to a bus-stop with bags of shopping and stand there (especially in winter) hoping for the arrival of a bus. Rhetorical,

      • Benjamin Reply

        “high quality” and “affordable housing” have both already been defined by BHCC a long while ago in one of their citywide plans. I forget which one, it was a long while ago.

        Does that mean you’d be fine with it if students were not on “Mickey Mouse” courses as you described them? Let’s also not forget they also stimulate the local economy in other ways instead.

        Nothing wrong with an Aldi, just people’s prejudices towards the brand.

  4. Peter Challis Reply

    We only appear that good if you include farmland. If you exclude this then land use becomes nearer 48% and then we are one of the worst.

    But we should always trust an unnamed council spokesperson and a Green councillors who wants to expand housing developments on “green field” sites.

    • Benjamin Reply

      Yeah, I did the math as well here, taking out the South Downs National Park, which came to 47.2% development on land available to be developed. Always shows it is good to do your own research when you can!

  5. ProtectourDowns Reply

    This article is the most irresponsible you have covered for a long time. The city is bounded in the south by the sea and to the north by the South Downs National Park. To the east and west there is urban development in Peacehaven and Shoreham . Much of the Downland was purchased by the pre-war Brighton Council to provide water and also to protect from overdevelopment. Your story provides succour to developers by making false comparisons with other cities which do not have the sea and also a national asset within its boundaries.

  6. Phil Belden Reply

    Totally incomparable statistics! None of the others on your list have a National Park within their boundaries. That point alone is worthy of praise, not statistical damnation, your misleading article likely to attract predatory developers.
    As a result of the Brighton & Hove part of the conurbation being sandwiched between seaside and Downs, what are you trying to get at – wall-wall built-up marinas and floating city, plus building over the Downs?
    Brighton & Hove is part of the equally built-up Adur and Lewes parts. Looking at the density of this conurbation (Shoreham to Saltdean) would provide a much more meaningful statistic and helpful article.

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