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Battle for Sutton greenbelt underway as Birmingham defends housing plans

Battle for Sutton greenbelt underway as Birmingham defends housing plans

🕔21.Oct 2014

A four-week battle that could decide the fate of Sutton Coldfield’s green belt is underway, reports Paul Dale from the first day of consultation on a critical plan for Birmingham. 

The opening day of an independent examination of the Birmingham Development Plan revolved around arguments over projections of the likely requirement for new housing up to 2031.

Birmingham city council planners believe a minimum of 84,000 dwellings are needed to cope with population growth and to address a housing shortage.

But the council says there is only sufficient space on brownfield sites in Birmingham for 51,000 homes – leaving 23,000 to be built across the city boundary in Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

As many as 6,000 of Birmingham’s required homes could be built at Peddimore and Langley in the Sutton green belt, as well as 80 hectares of land for industrial development.

The Sutton proposals are being bitterly contested by local councillors and MP Andrew Mitchell.

Planning Inspector Roger Clews is in charge of the examination into the soundness of the Birmingham Development Plan.

He will judge the plan against the criteria set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, looking at whether the proposals are:

  • Based on a strategy that seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.
  • Justified as the most appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence.
  • Deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities.
  • Consistent with national policy.

An early challenge to the plan came from the Consortium of West Midlands Developers and Landowners which is arguing for far greater housing development.

The consortium produced research claiming that at least 112,000 new dwellings will be needed, compared to the council’s proposal for a minimum of 84,000, arguing that the number of families living in shared accommodation with relatives had been underestimated.

The council set out its case in written evidence to the examination: “All the projections indicate substantial growth in both population and households within Birmingham in the period 2011 to 2031.

“The City Council is keen to ensure that sufficient housing is provided to meet these growth requirements and aims to maximise housing delivery within Birmingham’s boundary over the plan period.

“However the reality is that there is insufficient land within Birmingham to achieve this and so Birmingham will be reliant on neighbouring councils to accommodate some of Birmingham’s growth.

“The Council has sought firstly to maximise the amount of new housing that could be provided within the urban area, taking account of the need to protect open space and maintain environmental quality and also to ensure that other key strategic objectives such as the provision of employment land are not compromised. This provides a capacity of about 45,000 well below the requirement.

“The council has assessed all available sources of new housing within Birmingham’s boundary as national policy requires, but has been unable to identify sufficient land to meet the full objectively assessed need.

“In the council’s view 51,100 is the maximum amount of new housing that could realistically be delivered in Birmingham over the plan period. This means that it will be necessary for some provision for new housing to meet Birmingham’s needs to be made outside Birmingham’s boundary.”

A study prepared for the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP suggests that household growth in Birmingham will be within the range of 81,500 to 105,200 for the period 2011-2031 and that between 89,000 and 115,900 new dwellings may be needed.

The council’s statement continued: “Alterations to the Green Belt boundary to allow housing and employment development at Langley and Peddimore are justified by the need for growth, which is beyond what the urban area can accommodate.

“The plan demonstrates that the allocations are deliverable within the plan period and that there are no major constraints to development and deliverability.

“In the absence of any deliverable option and having limited capacity within the urban area, the council undertook an assessment of the city’s green belt, which concluded that it would be acceptable to allocate a site of 273 hectares, to the east of Walmley, Sutton Coldfield as a Sustainable Urban Extension.”

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England is claiming there are no exceptional circumstances to justify housing and industrial development in the green belt.

CPRE said: “The need for the housing proposed has not been clearly demonstrated and if there is a need in the future this does not justify release of any land from green belt now, prior to a review of the plan in 2021 or shortly thereafter.

“The plan proposes to remove land from the green belt south-east of Sutton Coldfield and allocates 6,000 houses on land between Walmley and the A38 and 80 hectares of employment land north of Minworth at Peddimore . All the land is high-quality farmland which has been green belt since the 1950s.

“The public transport access to the proposed urban extension or any alternative would be limited so that it would be a car-orientated development in practice. There is no railway station near the Langley location, and the Sutton Park line via Walmley is itself some distance from the proposed new allocation and does not carry passenger services at present.”

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