Build to Rent could be key to Government’s brownfield focus

Rapleys highlight that Build to Rent could be key to the Government’s brownfield focus if they get behind the residential development market.

Tom Spencer, Partner and Head of Development Agency, Rapleys | BTR News
Tom Spencer, Partner and Head of Development Agency, Rapleys.

There is a real opportunity for a new government to get behind the residential development market nationally, by specifically recognising and strengthening the role that Build to Rent has in national planning policy.

By Tom Spencer, Partner and Head of Development Agency, Rapleys

It is one of the few tenures that can be delivered on brownfield land at higher density, and in a viable way given its differing economic profile based on secure long term rental income.

It also comes in various guises – in the cities, we have highly designed, highly amenitised developments that support the young professional generations. On the city fringes, we have multi-generational schemes where people can stay for decades should they choose to and flex their accommodation according to their needs at each stage.

In the suburbs, single-family housing is starting to take off following several positive planning outcomes and a lot of investment.

Build to Rent should therefore be promoted as a good option when it comes to brownfield development. Recent reports have rightly pointed out however that local policy and the whole planning process could certainly do more to facilitate and encourage the growth of the sector.

If this is not through the NPPF changes, the new national development management policies (NDMPs) facilitated through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 do provide a potential vehicle to deliver a much clearer basis for Build to Rent developments to come forward. The forthcoming NDMPs will override local plan policies where there is any conflict and therefore could provide a consistent picture at national level, which in turn will mean greater confidence from the market.

However, if this is to happen, policy needs follow-through. Of course, we want efficient development on brownfield land, that’s the ideal. Build to Rent is one of the ways to do just that. But a very real conversation with decision makers will need to be had if the situation is going to improve and we are to avoid lengthy planning battles at a time when quality housing – of a mix of tenures – simply needs delivery.