Secretary of State can overrule local views

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.

SOS
Sajid Javid

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.

Coulter Lane pic
Coulter Lane

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!

11.10.17

 

 

 

 

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Burntwood Green Belt threat – lots of known unknowns

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.

apartmentsBirmingham’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.

20.09.17

 

 

 

 

 

District Council to look at Housing Allocation Sites consultation on Tuesday.

On Tueday, 19th September, in addition to the Lichfield Local Plan progress and the Brownfield Site Register, item 7 (page 52) of the Economic Growth, the Environment and Development (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee Agenda has the result of the Housing Allocations Consultation – including the possible loss of Green Belt in Burntwood.

greenbeltAbout 5000 representations were received by the District Council between 20th March and 12th of May 2017 – with a few received after the deadline.

Although no decisions on the sites will be made on the night – apart to support the recommendation that the current Green Belt proposals are reviewed after the result of a High Court judgement is known – it will be interesting see what questions are asked of officers and Cabinet members.

Legal challenge to Secretary of State

The District Council has challenged the Conservative Secretary of State over his approval for 750 houses at Watery Lane, Curborough even though this meant that he overrode the Local Plan which had gone through public consultation and supported by the Planning Inspector.  The written judgement is still awaited and has a two edged sword.

If the High Court finds for the District Council then the Local Plan is intact and will proceed as planned with the threat to the Green Belt.  However, if the Court sides with the Secretary of State then that’s 750 houses (at least – it won’t stop there) not needed on Green Belt land and so may benefit Burntwood.

LPA 300 representation by former Councillor, Steve Norman, makes the point albeit from a purely selfish Burntwood perspective:

Object to the use of Green Belt land for housing unless there are exceptional circumstances where the district and neighbours cannot accommodate more houses required. Curborough is not in Green Belt, is sustainable according to the Secretary of State and so can lessen the pressure on the Green Belt which must take priority.

Who has and who hasn’t bothered to make representation?

Lichfield District Council Labour Group’s submission is:

  • Opposes development within Green Belt, in particular sites B14 and B15.
  • Do not believe there is any justification for sites at Coulter Lane and Highfields Road to be considered as ‘exceptional circumstances.
  • Burntwood suffers from lack of infrastructure investment. Services have not followed development. Burntwood community is overwhelmingly opposed to any reduction of its valued Green Belt.
  • Do not believe all brownfield sites within the District have been considered or that evidence showing brownfield sites to be ‘unsustainable’ has not been provided or tested. Urge all brownfield sites to be thoroughly investigated before allocations are made on Green Belt.
  • Labour Group believe what is exception about these two sites is the controversy and opposition, including cross-Party opposition, that they have received.
  • Argue the impact of the proposals in Burntwood is disproportionate and totally unacceptable. There is no guarantee that any planning gain monies would address the current problems, let alone possible future problems.
  • Believe sites B14 and B15 would probably become commuter areas, adding little to the community life in the town while adding to the pressures on its services.

One latecomer (at least he did lobby for his electors even though it was too late to be included in the formal responses) was the MP for Tamworth.

Our Member of Parliament (Salary: £76.011, expenses: £24,000 for 2016-17) has done nothing again.  In fact he claims he cannot get involved in planning issues – unless it is a Labour Government of course.

13.09.17