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As public opinion is usually not in favour of new industrial development on greenfields and the market struggles with a lack of available space and suitable land for new development, brownfields have been attracting increased levels of interest. In the eyes of general public, the site of a former scrapyard, for example, can represent an ideal place for redevelopment. There are, however, many cases when similar locations have been pinpointed for redevelopment, but lengthy permitting procedures prevent the development of modern industrial space with green certificates.
To successfully revitalise a brownfield, several things are imperative. The most important are resolve and patience. Although master plans usually classify brownfields as sites suitable for industrial production, it doesn’t mean that potential developers will obtain the necessary permits easily. The first step is usually to secure the proper permits for demolition of any existing buildings. Then, after a controlled demolition, the waste, which cannot be recycled, needs to be ecologically disposed of. Subsequent steps include environmental remediation (as the sites are very often heavily polluted) and restoration, as well as the modernisation of infrastructure and utilities. Brownfield redevelopment is often a high-risk venture as they were used in various ways in the past, meaning that the developer will likely have to deal with extra expenses and potential complications. Furthermore, the sellers often believe they have a valuable property and expect adequate financial compensation. If the given site is not supported by the authorities or does not meet the criteria for subsidies, the developer can end up with a high-risk investment with an uncertain outcome.
Last but not least, we cannot forget that with city growth, some brownfields are no longer on the outskirts and are therefore unsuitable for industrial development. Such sites are, however, targeted by residential developers who also have to face all the aforementioned challenges.
The Situation is Changing
Compared to the situation a few years back, we are now seeing an increased animosity towards greenfield development, and this is driving the pressure for brownfield redevelopment. However, developers need suitable lands for their projects. Without that, they are unable to meet the demands of their clients and subsequently also the end users.
If given adequate support by the authorities and the public, we expect this trend to give new life to brownfields and transform them into a significant driving force on the market. But as previously mentioned, these sites have a long history and are often surrounded by other ongoing or future developments (typically residential) which either complicates or rules out access by trucks. Without the will or ability to deal with such obstacles, there is no way such locations can be developed.
Authorities Should Find a Common Ground with Investors
Authorities need to actively motivate investors to consider these locations. That is, however, impossible without simplifying legislation governing the demolition, environmental remediation, permitting procedures etc. Once these necessary steps are taken, brownfields can come into the spotlight and greenfields can remain as greenfields.