The centre of Bristol is heavily developed, leading to a huge demand for sites for residential and commercial construction. Many are looking to brownfield sites to resolve and ease this challenge, to increase the land supply and enable development.
As estimates suggest that a million homes could be built on 17,500 brownfield sites around the UK, we invited Paul Dennis from Arup Group and Ben St Quintin from Alder King LLP to give their insight alongside our Head of Construction and Engineering, Andrew Evans.
Paul began by introducing the new statutory onus on local authorities to identify brownfield sites in their areas – and that restrictions on their own ability to control planning in their province had been threatened to councils who did not do so before March 2018. In addition there are moves within government to speed up the planning process in relation to these sites so that developers can move projects forward swiftly.
As you would expect, cost is for a central factor in the developability of brownfield sites, so early risk analysis is key. Paul emphasised the importance of a collaborative approach for this part of the process, as assessors, surveyors, developers, and funders need to share insight and information to gain a clear picture of what challenges and risks a particular site would present.
Andrew then took to the stage to consider best practice in the management of legal and commercial risks when undertaking brownfield developments to increase their bankability. After a quick reminder that proper planning prevents problems, he detailed how early stage risk analysis is vital for contractors and the ground team. Funders will be more nervous about lending to brownfield developments if risks are not identified and a clear plan put in place for dealing with them. Andrew revealed the progressive changes in the team legal structure he has experienced when dealing with developers, the ground risk team, contractors, and funders.
Andrew closed with a section highlighting how the benefits of collaborative working and collaborative commercial deal structuring can be used to address some of the challenges under brownfield including the use of NEC contracts, risk sharing provisions, and pain/gain share deals.
We then invited Ben to share some real-life examples of brownfield developments sites around the Bristol area, with unprecedented access to behind the scenes information. Ground remediation is often the highest cost for brownfield sites, and Ben revealed challenges with arsenic and lead (naturally occurring!), asbestos (not naturally occurring), and Paul chimed in with an example of how the discovery of radioactive waste had impacted a project. No matter where the brownfield site, Ben recommended that adjustments for land price will always need to be negotiated depending on the surveys, often through intrusive ground investigations to give as much detail as possible.
The three speakers then stood together on the stage and announced the formation of the Bristol Brownfield Group, a consortium of expertise and support for brownfield development around the South West. Questions were taken from the floor on investment and risk responsibility, and Andrew shared that: “Early investigation and a collaborative approach between the experts – ground risk professionals and the Contractor – is essential on brownfield sites.”
Thanks to over 80 registrations this month, we took over Cinema 3 at the Watershed this month, but there was still the same outstanding food and opportunities to meet useful connections in Bristol. Our next Construction Breakfast is on April 10th when we will be welcoming Craig White from We Can Make, discussing developing using modular housing. Make sure that you register for your place now.