14 local authorities, including Lichfield District, that comprise the Greater Birmingham and Black Country Housing Market Area (GBBCHMA) commissioned consultancy team GL Hearn and Wood plc to undertake a study for the Housing Needs for Birmingham This is because there is a shortfall of planned housing need of 37,900 dwellings for 2011 – 31 in the Birmingham Development Plan.
The report is now available to view on Lichfield District Council’s website here. Set aside a weekend to study it!
The report makes clear that: “It does not in any way commit the participating authorities to development of any of the geographic areas referred to (nor does it exclude the testing of alternatives), but it is a thorough evidence base to take matters forward through the local plan review process.”
Section 8 of the Study is called Strategic Green Belt Review which looks at the Green Belt in all the local authority areas including Lichfield District. Whilst there is a long process ahead it is unclear what is being implied in their comments on the current Green Belt boundaries for example:
Between Lichfield, Burntwood, Brownhills and Sutton Coldfield – The gap between Lichfield and the towns of Burntwood and Brownhill[s] to the west is around 1.85 miles and 3 miles respectively. The presence of small settlements (i.e. Woodhouses and Hammerwich) and other types of built development (ribbon development, clusters of residential properties, the A5 and M6 Toll) to the west narrow the sense of separation. or …
Here the presence of settlements and other development has resulted in fragmented areas of Green Belt. Whilst roads play a key role in physically defining the edges of these settlements (including the M6 toll south of Norton Canes). The degree of containment is varied and in places there an absence of a physically well-defined boundary to prevent sprawl into open countryside.
The first comment may mean that the separation (an important aspect of Green Belt) is not clear and the second that well defined boundaries are needed – but not there at the moment.
It is unclear and it is important to remember that this is only a study but there is a need to find the 37.900 dwellings by 2031 and the Green Belt boundaries are yet again under review in the wider context than just Lichfield District.
Lichfield District Council’s consultation on housing allocations and the Green Belt boundary around St Matthews “Estate” ends on Monday, 9th February.
There is more to the consultation than the Green Belt but here is the paragraph – without a suggested new boundary map.
9.7 Policy Burntwood
1: Burntwood Environment provides a commitment to remove the St Matthews Estate from the Green Belt with the exact boundaries to be determined through this Local Plan Allocations document. The NPPF requires Local Planning Authorities to take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development and to define boundaries clearly, using physical features that are readily recognisable and likely to be permanent.
from the St Matthews Estate area of Burntwood. The District Council has removed the Housing Allocation Site either side of Coulter Lane but of course that is only part of the defence against Bloors’ proposal to build 80 homes there.
The biggest protection of all is the Green Belt and if the boundary is removed from this area then objectors will have one hand tied behind their back in the fight against development here.
Just to be clear it will be us against the Secretary of State with our MP hiding in his bunker again!
The proposal to take the St Matthew’s area out of the Green Belt – leaving the land off Coulter Lane vulnerable to developers did not get a mention at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
What was mentioned was the fact that officers have presented a report for the Local Plan influenced by the political leadership suggesting this is not the report they would have written as professionals. However Cabinet members will not be at the Examination in Public which will cost the Council about £90,000 in total involving legal representations and consultants.
It is not even clear whether the 750 dwellings at Curborough that the Secretary of State forced through (see below) will be counted in the 10,000 plus dwellings LDC has to find. That is also without the challenge to a site for 1000 dwellings opposed by Tamworth Borough Council!
If that wasn’t enough the Cabinet member responsible referred to the issue “hanging over us” i.e. the need to work with Birmingham to meet their housing needs on Lichfield District’s boundary where it cannot be accommodated on Birmingham’s brownfield land. Surely the new mayor of the West Midlands will listen to his close friend Michael Fabricant MP and so that threat will be lifted soon.
District Council’s Cabinet report accepts their failed High Court challenge to the Government means less pressure on Green Belt – but Burntwood will lose protection at Coulter Lane.
The report to Lichfield District Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday states: “St Matthews estate is still proposed for release from the Green Belt. This was identified within the Local Plan Strategy and the review of the land identifies that it does not fulfil the purposes of Green Belt. However its release does not result in any allocation of land for housing.”
Tell that to Bloor Homes who want to build 80 dwellings near Coulter Lane! In their response last year they said “This report demonstrates [and] endorses many of the conclusions contained within the evidence produced by the District Council and establishes that the site does not perform an important role in respect of Green Belt purposes.”
In fact the District Council has in at least three reports, the main one being The Green Belt Review 2012, have stated that they want to remove the St Mathews area (E1 on map} out of Green Belt following Government Planning Guidance.
I you want to know what can happen when potential housing land is not protected by Green Belt policies you only have to look at Curborough on the edge of Lichfield. The MP did nothing to protect the countryside here and he’s done nothing to defend Burntwood’s countryside either.
Hammerwich Parish escapes – for now.
The threat to Hammerwich’s Green Belt off the Highfields Road has been lifted this time as the Council are not proposing development on this parcel of Green Belt.
Following on from the High Court action which the District Council lost when it challenged the Secretary of State’s power to overrule the Lichfield District Local Plan the Cabinet are proposing to withdraw all green belt allocations – this time. The report to be considered by the Conservative Cabinet on Tuesday 5th December says: “A further analysis of the housing supply has been undertaken, taking into account any potential windfalls to re-assess the need for Green Belt release.”
Thanks to the Secretary of State overriding local views 750 properties have now been added to the numbers available meaning less pressure on Burntwood’s Green Belt – for now but the Local Plan has to be reviewed again soon in order to respond to the housing needs of Greater Birmingham.
This stage of the process is to go out for public consultation between January 8th and February 19th next year.
Yesterday the High Court confirmed that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government had the power to overrule local residents, the District Council and the Independent Planning Inspector in giving the go-ahead for 750 dwellings near Lichfield.
Whilst Lichfield District Council was able to defend the Local Plan in the High Court against developers in July 2015 it is a different situation now.
The previous blog described the threat to the Local Plan if Lichfield District Council lost the fight although it may mean less pressure on the Green Belt around Burntwood.
Planning Permission for 750 homes in Curborough means 750 are not needed elsewhere – at the moment. But we must not be too relieved in Burntwood because this means the Local Plan could be overruled by the Government again in the future and there is a pack of developers waiting to pounce. In the future, after this initial period, Birmingham still needs land for their population increase.
What is the current situation?
Lichfield District Council officers and Cabinet members are having to consider the judgement and the 5000 representations from residents and developers to the consultation over the Housing Allocation sites two of which are within the current Green Belt boundary.
It has been reported elsewhere that the Coulter Lane site earmarked for 80 dwellings has been taken off the list but that is not so. Officers are still to submit a detailed report to Cabinet – probably on the 5th of December.
Who sent in representations and who didn’t?
You will not be surprised to see that Lichfield’s MP did not write to support the Green Belt in and around Burntwood in the Consultation Report. Of course had it been a Labour Secretary of State he would have asked questions in Parliament and lobbied the District Council but in fact he supports their policies whilst trying to kid protesters in Burntwood that he is on their side!
These issues were highlighted at last night’s Scrutiny meeting at Lichfield District Council to discuss the Local Plan, Brownfield Sites and Housing Allocation sites that threaten Burntwood’s Green Belt boundary:
If they lose the High Court action against the Secretary of State regarding the Curborough decision then fewer houses should be needed easing the pressure on the Green Belt – though officers were not fully confident that that would necessarily follow.
If they lose it also means the Local Plan, supported by residents and the Independent Inspector, can be overridden by the Secretary of State – not that Mr Fabricant has shown any concern about this.
Birmingham’s housing requirement was also a big unknown not just now but in a few year’s time – the neighbouring districts, including Lichfield, need to find room for 37,900 homes now.
So when will we have the detailed responses to the 5000 representations?
That’s an unknown too. Officer time is limited and lack of Council funding just adds to the unknowns. Of course if one group of objectors win their argument and a housing site is deleted from there – it will have to be found elsewhere. Whilst Tamworth’s MP has supported (belatedly) Shenstone objectors Lichfield’s MP is nowhere – but could be seen on Channel 4 later this year – and is no doubt concentrating on that rather than his electors.