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Birmingham’s search for living space

Birmingham’s search for living space

🕔13.Jun 2012

Bromsgrove, Redditch, Solihull, Tamworth and the Black Country councils could be asked to help Birmingham solve its housing shortage by identifying land for new residential development.

In what is certain to be a highly contentious proposal, Birmingham City Council’s new Labour administration is considering asking neighbouring boroughs to accommodate as many as 27,000 houses and flats over the next 15 years.

The new dwellings would be built close to the Birmingham border, but not in the city itself, opening up the likelihood of controversy over green-field and even green belt development.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward said Government projections suggested that Birmingham required a minimum of 70,000 new homes to meet estimated population growth. But the actual figure could be even higher according to new forecasts from the Office of National Statistics, he warned.

Council planners believe Birmingham has sufficient land capacity for no more than 43,000 new dwellings.

Coun Ward (Lab Shard End) said the council would use the new duty to co-operate’ embedded in the Localism Act and would work with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership to identify possible sites for development.

The West Midlands Joint Committee, representing the seven district councils, would also be involved in discussions to determine how much of the housing growth pressures might be accommodated outside of Birmingham, Coun Ward added.

Coun Ward continued: ”Two key pieces of work are nearing completion. A strategic housing market assessment and a strategic housing land availability assessment. These will be used to determine the level of housing growth.

“However, since the indications of long term capacity to build new homes within the built-up area of Birmingham are likely to be about 43,000 dwellings, there will be pressure to find additional capacity.

“The strategic housing market assessment will provide us with a robust analysis to help determine what type and size of dwellings need to be provided.”

The prospect of a ‘land grab’ by Birmingham will re-ignite rows over the last Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy, which proposed building more than 400,000 new homes across the West Midlands.

Birmingham agreed to build a maximum of about 50,000 dwellings, but the latest estimates for population growth suggest that a far higher figure will be required to avoid a crippling housing shortage.

Coun Ward said Labour’s priority would be to build housing on brownfield land. But he added: “Meeting future housing needs is crucial if we are to avoid severe social problems through overcrowding and deteriorating health.”

The prospect of a 70,000-plus target has alarmed Conservative city councillors. Group leader Mike Whitby said: “This is a nonsense. The figure is unattainable.”

Deputy Conservative group leader Robert Alden urged Labour council leaders to make sure that local communities were involved in planning new housing schemes. “We need to make sure we are going to get housing that local people want and that it is not forced on them by the centre,” he added.

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