Headlines: July 31st, 2003

The European Commission has approved proposals to ease pressure on the green belt by making it more cost effective to reclaim brownfield sites. The approval will allow the Regional Development Agencies and local authorities to give financial help to developers to decontaminate polluted land.The announcement of the approval came from the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott as environmental campaigners voiced concerns over the fate of the green belt under plans he unveiled for the first phase of a massive house building programme in the south east of England. He named five strategic sites where 200,000 homes will be built to tackle the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the region. .

The land remediation state aid approval granted by the Commission is designed to help the private sector transform contaminated or brownfield land into clean sites for development. Regional Development Agencies, English Partnerships and local councils will be able to provide grants of up to 100 per cent to developers to fund the cost of removing pollution, decontaminating land and tackling dereliction in otherwise economically unviable areas. The approval also allows for grants to be given to help the relocation of companies on environmental grounds.

Mr. Prescott said, “Areas of contaminated or derelict land ruled out in the past due to unprofitable overheads will now become more attractive to developers – reviving business in otherwise economically declining towns and villages. By bringing brownfield land back into use, this approval will take pressure off our valuable green belts.”

The approval is the latest in a series of decisions by the Commission on regeneration related proposals. It has already approved grants for works to historic buildings and land. Mr. Prescott’s office is now working on a guide and website that will aim to demystify state aid. They will offer advice to all involved with state aid including local councils and developers, steering them through the complicated procedures, offering advice and ensuring they stay within the rules. The website will be a central point of contact and assistance for all European structural funding applications and enquiries about state aid. Creating Sustainable Communities – Making it Happen is available on www.odpm.gov.uk