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Land supply shortage ‘puts at risk’ West Midlands homes and jobs plan

Land supply shortage ‘puts at risk’ West Midlands homes and jobs plan

🕔21.Jul 2016

A chronic land shortage for new housing and industrial development in the West Midlands will put at risk plans to create 500,000 jobs unless new sites can be identified, council leaders have warned.

The West Midlands Combined Authority, representing 12 councils and four local enterprise partnerships, has formed a Land Commission to look at why previous attempts to identify sufficient development sites have failed, and to make recommendations to improve future supply.

The commission is chaired by RICS board chair Paul Marcuse who is in the process of appointing up to four commissioners to assist him.

A report to the WMCA warns that the region’s Strategic Economic Plan which maps out new jobs and homes could be at risk by an already constrained land supply.

WMCA has signed a devolution deal with the Government which it claims will be worth £8 billion over 30 years, but the 500,000 new jobs promised will be dependent on building more homes and identifying development sites, as well as improving connectivity across the region with better trains, trams and bus services.

Whatever strategic approach Mr Marcuse’s commission comes up with, the granting of planning permission for homes and industrial development will continue to lie in the hands of WMCA’s individual councils, which has proved a stumbling block in the past with councillors sometimes caving in to public protests over developing sensitive sites.

The report predicts the land commission will attract “significant regional and national attention” and says it is important the commission’s methodology, membership, approach and evidence gathering are “highly credible, professional and beyond reproach”.

Mr Marcuse has held a series of meetings with council leaders and chief executives and LEP board members to spell out how the commission will approach its task.

There are three principles underpinning the work of the commission:

  • A sufficient supply of developable land for both employment and housing use is a prerequisite for the delivery of the Super Strategic Economic Plan.
  • A shortage of sufficient developable land affects the productivity of the region.
  • Following the abolition of the Rate Support Grant (RSG) and the full localisation of National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) councils will increasingly rely upon Business Rates to fund activities.

The commission will address four questions:

What is the extent of the challenge?

  • Establish the shortfall in the housing/employment land supply by reference to the WMCA SEP. This will draw heavily on the work currently being undertaken by Peter Brett Associates, Oxford Economics and KPMG.
  • Confirm the issues, in discussion with both relevant public bodies and the private sector, in establishing a sufficient supply of developable land.
  • Identify the implications and risks of the shortfall for the West Midlands.

What can we learn from historic delivery in the West Midlands?

  • Contextualise the shortfall in terms of historical delivery across the West Midlands.
  • Capture the learnings from successes and failures in the West Midlands, including assessing the track record of AWM and other development enabling bodies.

What are the blockages to the delivery of developable land?

  • Critically assess the historic and current experience of the West Midlands in delivering new housing/employment development and a sustainable supply of developable housing/employment land.
  • Obtain and review feedback from local authorities, developers, housebuilders and other consultees to identify, and weight the importance of, the real blockages to delivery.

How can a sufficient supply of developable land in the West Midlands be secured?

  • Evaluate the extent of which national and local tools are insufficient or not working effectively in the West Midlands context.
  • Review and include examples of best practice and innovation drawn from other parts of the UK and other countries.
  • Ensure there is a pipeline of a sufficient supply of developable land, which supports both the growth ambitions of local businesses, and the future diversification of the local economy; and for which there is a review mechanism to adjust the pipeline to react to changing occupier, resident, and funder patterns.

The WMCA is at pains to point out it isn’t solely an organisation that concentrates on economic matters and has launched an “exciting and ambitious” plan to increase physical activity across the region.

West Midlands on the Move 2016-30 is being created to increase physical activity levels and its aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of the population, which in turn will help deliver economic growth.  The plan is being developed with the support of Intelligent Health.

Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority said:

Over 30 per cent of the West Midlands population is inactive and our vision is to improve the quality of life of everyone who lives and works in the West Midlands.

The knowledge and evidence that Intelligent Health is providing will establish the foundations to help the people in our Combined Authority reach their full potential.

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