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Brownfield land

Brownfield land (also referred to as Previously Developed Land) is or was occupied by commercial and industrial buildings or structures. It generally relates to underused or abandoned industrial and commercial facilities which become available for re-use but excludes agricultural buildings, private gardens and operations connected to mineral extraction or waste disposal. Expansion or redevelopment of such land can often be affected by environmental contamination which can be challenging and costly to remediate and therefore affects its viability.

Below is an example of brownfield land at a disused manufacturing site before and after excavation, with soil contamination from removed underground storage tanks and press works.

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Rear of site before excavation

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Rear of site after excavation

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Gatehouse image one

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Gatehouse image two

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Ballast pit

Typical pollutants found on contaminated brownfield land include; hydrocarbon spillages, solvents, pesticides, heavy metals such as lead (e.g. paints), tributyltins and asbestos.


Whilst the costs of developing many brownfield sites can be considerable, planning policies favour the redevelopment of brownfield sites and the viability of dealing with such issues as decontamination can be used to reduce the usual financial obligations that would apply to greenfield sites. Therefore the economics of delivering brownfield sites is often challenging but not necessarily insurmountable.

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