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Chamber POTY: Sutton Coldfield, by Paul Dale

Chamber POTY: Sutton Coldfield, by Paul Dale

🕔17.Dec 2012

Sutton Coldfield has always been an irritating and slightly pretentious place.

From the moment in 1528 when Henry VIII granted a charter, the Royal Town with its 2,200-acre park has looked down rather snootily at neighbouring industrial Birmingham.

Sadly, the world fell apart for Sutton in 1974 when local government reorganisation removed the borough from Warwickshire and placed it, horror of horrors, in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

The joke was, of course, that the sweeping plan that created amorphous metropolitan counties and did away with the Little England of places like Sutton and Rutland was the brainchild of a Tory government rather than some socialist Labour party plot.

For years the chattering classes of Sutton Coldfield fought a desperate battle to get back into Warwickshire, but it was not to be.

Today, Sutton is a town full of beautiful and very expensive Georgian and Victorian houses and its citizens are largely quite happy to take advantage of Birmingham’s monstrous economy by commuting daily in their 4x4s to jobs in the professional services sector as long as they can return home safe at night to a middle class enclave that will forever be wrapped in the 1950s.

The Chamber POTYs are the first Person of the Year Awards run by The Chamberlain Files. To see who else has been nominated, click here

Sutton is currently suffering one of its regular spasms about housing development. Put simply, the situation is this: Birmingham, and that includes Sutton, is suffering from an acute housing shortage. There is not enough brownfield land in the city to accommodate the 80,000 new homes required by 2031 and it is inevitable that a limited amount of development will have to take place on green field and, gulp, green belt land.

Birmingham is not alone in wrestling with this problem. Local authorities across the country are also facing up to the national housing shortage and coming to terms with a green belt that has remained pretty much intact since the 1950s and is no longer fit for purpose.

The proposal by Birmingham City Council is that between 5,000 and 10,000 new homes may have to be built on green belt land on the edge of Sutton. In reality, as a development document makes clear, taking into account the state of the market and past trends, few expect even the 5,000 figure to be realisable by 2031.

Predictably, Sutton councillors and the MP (let’s not even go there) have thrown an almighty strop about this. The Sutton District Committee met to launch an all-party attack against the green belt proposals, and managed to encourage 50 members of the public to attend on the penultimate Saturday afternoon before Christmas.

Incidentally, the committee doesn’t want much in the way of industrial development in Sutton either, but then  you probably guessed that.

The fact is that even 5,000 homes would hardly make a dent in the thousands of acres of green belt and countryside separating Sutton from Lichfield and Tamworth. As for the ‘this will open the floodgates’ argument, there is no evidence to suggest that previous limited green belt development has resulted in a bit by bit dismantling of the countryside.

Sutton has form on this issue. The borough’s councillors also fought to prevent ‘in fill’ development in the huge gardens of the equally huge villas that are a feature of the town. Back garden development was seen by the previous Labour government as one way of maximising new build without encroaching into the countryside, but as per usual in Sutton there was no room for compromise.

And so, while the population of Birmingham grows steadily, and the housing shortage becomes more acute, Sutton stresses over some fields.

Sutton Coldfield – Chamberlain Files’ Irritant of the Year.


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