Thinking Of Developing Grey Belt Land? – What You Need To Know


The concept of the “grey belt” has gained attention recently as part of discussions around housing development and land use. In this blog post, we’ll explore what the grey belt is, its significance, and considerations for developers interested in building on such land.


What Is the Grey Belt?

The grey belt refers to areas within the green belt that are considered “poor-quality and ugly.” These areas may include disused car parks, wasteland, and other neglected spaces. The green belt itself was established over 70 years ago in England to limit the growth of large built-up areas and prevent towns from merging into one another. However, Labour’s proposal aims to repurpose certain parts of the green belt for new housing, with a focus on affordability.


Prioritizing Brownfield Sites

Labour’s approach involves prioritizing brownfield sites and poor-quality areas within the green belt for development. Brownfield sites are previously developed land that may have been underutilized or abandoned. By repurposing these areas, the goal is to meet the demand for housing while preserving green spaces. For example, a disused garage in Tottenham, north London, serves as an example of a green belt site that cannot be developed due to its designation.


How Much Grey Belt Exists?

As the grey belt is a relatively new category, there is no official data on its extent. However, estate agent Knight Frank has identified approximately 11,000 previously developed sites, making up less than 1% of the existing green belt. These sites are mainly concentrated in the south of England, with over 40% located within the London green belt area. According to analysis, 100,000 to 200,000 new family homes could potentially be built on grey belt sites1.


Challenges and Considerations

Defining the Grey Belt: Clear definitions are crucial to prevent misuse of the grey belt designation. Former golf courses and land used for mineral extraction are examples of areas that could be designated as grey belt.

Balancing Housing Needs: While building on grey belt land is essential, it’s equally important to consider additional brownfield sites within urban areas. England faces a housing shortage, and both grey belt and brownfield development will be necessary to meet demand.

Affordability: Labour’s proposal emphasizes affordable housing on grey belt sites. Developers should consider how to achieve this goal while maintaining quality and sustainability.


What are the disadvantages to developing this new grey belt or brownfield sites?


  • Grey belt sites, as with Brownfield sites, won’t always be straight forward to develop, commonly comprising deteriorating derelict buildings which may need to be demolished.
  • Grey belt sites, as with Brownfield sites, may be contaminated from the previous industrial land-use requiring clean-up and remediation.
  • Grey belt sites, as with Brownfield sites, are sometimes located in areas where surrounding structures exist which may cause problems during the construction phase.
  • Grey belt land which has been derelict for some time may have been occupied by plants and wildlife, leading to the need for ecological studies and remedies.


What can Geo-Integrity do to help your brownfield development?

Here at Geo-Integrity, we offer our clients all four phases required to tackle “grey belt” or brownfield development: Phase I Desk Study, Phase 2 Site Investigation, Phase 3 Remediation and Phase 4 Verification. Our experience with brownfield sites across the United Kingdom enables us to produce detailed and accurate conceptual site models allowing our clients to have a clear understanding of the potential contamination present and geotechnical hazards. Following this we provide cost effective site investigations for both small and large brownfield sites. We have multiple intrusive methods at our disposal whether it be trial pitting, boreholes, in-situ testing, monitoring as well as laboratory testing of soils and groundwater to accurately determine any contaminants on site and acquire geotechnical parameters for geotechnical design. Should the results of the site investigation identify contamination (not always the case) we can provide the remedial strategy, often forming part of a condition, which outlines from start to finish the steps required to remediate the site. The final step is verification which proves to the local authority the remediation has been undertaken correctly.



The grey belt represents an opportunity to address housing shortages while preserving green spaces. As discussions continue, defining clear criteria and balancing housing needs will be essential for successful development.  Please contact us on 01280 816409 or email




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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Graham (Thursday, 11 July 2024 09:31)

    Very interesting, well explained in simple language. Should provide plenty of opportunities if used for affordable housing .