Author Archives: Ken Hawkins
At Full Council last week (Tuesday 3 December) the Local Development Plan was formally adopted. It is now a legal document and is the blue print for development within Solihull for the next 15 years. The full document can viewed via this link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/Local_Plan_Final__low_resolution.pdf
The Inspectors Report, paragraph 14, reads:
The Solihull Local Plan (SLP) establishes the strategic planning framework for Solihull for the period up to 2028, setting out a spatial portrait of the Borough, identifying its challenges, objectives and vision. It establishes a spatial strategy and a series of strategic policies to achieve sustainable economic growth, provide homes for all, improve accessibility and encourage sustainable travel, protect and enhance the environment, promote quality of place and support local communities. It not only provides the strategic planning context for the Borough, but also makes site-specific allocations, including housing and employment land. It is accompanied by an extensive evidence base, including Background Papers, technical reports and studies, strategies and sustainability appraisals.
The inspector’s report (link here: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/SolihullLP_final.pdf ) does mention other factors to be taken into consideration, such as a duty to consider the future housing needs of Birmingham – who have only just begun to prepare their long term housing needs. This is an important issue (especially as I, like many other residents of Solihull, moved to the borough from Birmingham in the last 30 years) but Birmingham has many brown field sites it must use for their housing needs before seeking to ask neighbouring authorities to identify land for their needs. Basically, I believe the situation is no different to what has been in existence for the last three decades.
Paragraphs 80 to 83 of the inspectors report relate specifically to development sites within Blythe ward. The inspector justifies their inclusion in the LDP and finds the phasing of the release of the sites for development being ‘soundly based’. I know that many residents will appreciate this last statement.
What happens now?
I did attend Full Council on 3 December to support the LDP – to not have a plan would leave the borough at the mercy of developers and a return to the John Prescott days. Unfortunately, business was going very slowly on the night and two hours into the meeting we were still about 90 mins away from discussing the LDP. I had to leave the meeting because I was only 17 days after having a hip replacement and was in a bit of discomfort. However, let me very clear – I support the LDP.
There are issues that will need resolving when planning applications are submitted and discussed at the Planning Committee and as a member of that committee it is vital I do not seek to predetermine my decisions. It is important acknowledge though that some planning application shave been made for sites that are not within the LDP and other planning applications brought forward from the suggested phasing within the LDP. These will be determined on an individual basis by the planning committee.
An interesting planning application came before the planning committee on 9 October 2013. I was substituting at the meeting for another councillor but was aware I was likely to remain on the committee for the remained of the municipal year. However, the week before the meeting I had submitted a representation to the committee objecting to an application to build a house on greenbelt land in Houndsfield Road, Tidbury Green. Because I had pre-determined my view I could not vote on the application but did address the committee accordingly.
The relevant planning application is number 2013/1396 and it sought to erect a dormer bungalow and garage on green belt land opposite to number 26 Houndsfield Lane. The report by the borough’s planning officers can be viewed via this link: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/Data/Planning%20Committee/201310091630/Agenda/$Report%20by%20Head%20of%20Development%20Management%20(80K%20bytes)%20-%20att39932.doc.pdf . Officers recommended the application be refused and because of the dangers in allowing housing development on green belt land I sought to support the view of the officers. I was also extremely concerned that to allow one property to be developed on a green field site might serve to be a precedent and that the remaining land in Houndsfield Lane might also be subject of planning applications. The site plan can be viewed here: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/Data/Planning%20Committee/201310091630/Agenda/proposed_site_plan%20(325K%20bytes)%20-%20att39933.pdf We must also be concerned that the Local development Plan, which was adopted only last week, was still awaiting acceptance from the planning inspectorate and if there were delays in getting it ratified, examples of the local authority actually agreeing to build on green belt land not in the LDP might prove to be damaging to the local plan.
This application was not destined to go before the planning committee but the developer contacted all three ward councillors asking for us to support a call for it to be addressed by the committee. This allows for developers to address the committee itself, whereas this would normally be dealt with under delegated powers (by the Head of Planning and Chair of the Committee). I refused to have the matter brought before the committee but one ward councillor did agree. The councillor, as is her right, actually supported the development on this green belt land and sought to criticise Tidbury Green parish council for not objecting to a proposed traveller/gypsy site in Dickens Heath Road. It was shame this was done (see bullet point 4 in ‘representations’) because the traveller site is in Dickens Heath parish and not Tidbury Green.
I urged the planning committee to refuse the application citing that any development on green fields in the countryside must have an holistic approach and must not be piecemeal, one plot at a time. This is why the Local Development is so important to the borough – it will help us fight totally inappropriate development. The officers reasons for recommended the planning application be refused are compelling and can be read on the final page of the officers report.
Readers may wish to look at a previous post about this site (dated 10 July), this outlined the original application to provide an additional permanent one static caravan pitch at the rear of 74 Dickens Heath Road, Shirley, Solihull. Planning application 2013/137/S refers and the final report, which went to the Planning Committee on 30 October 2013 can be viewed via this link:http://www.solihull.gov.uk/akssolihull/users/public/admin/kab12.pl?cmte=PLA&meet=106&arc=71
There has been a change in the general circumstances since the original application in July. In addition, at the October planning committee meeting I was appointed as the council’s Planning Committee Vice-Chair. This brings extra responsibility when deliberating planning applications, however I have always sought to provide a balanced viewpoint with planning applications and look at the wider picture.
At the October planning committee meeting I voted to agree the recommendations of the boroughs planning officers in respect of this planning application. The main worry for me was that if the application was refused by the committee (contrary to the report from the council’s experts) then any appeal by the applicants may succeed and costs will be awarded against the council. The rationale behind this is the draft ‘Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document’. This was submitted to the planning inspectorate in July 2013 and the submission document can be viewed via this link – http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/DPD_001_Submission_Document_July_2013.pdf . Para 7.6.3 on page 24 refers to the site in Dickens Heath Road, also known as ‘UPLANDS’. It is also a concern that if the application was refused and if an appeal was viewed to be successful then the planning inspectorate may well declare the need for the traveller site to be placed elsewhere in the ward. Yes, there are a few if’s here, but these issues need to be taken into consideration.
Page 23 of the planning officer’s report is quite important and I copy a paragraph here “Whilst the DPD is not yet formally adopted, it has reached an advanced stage and is expected to be adopted later this year and can therefore be accorded significant weight. This application is fully in accordance with the emerging policy document and Policy P6 of the Draft Local Plan which can now be given full weight in the absence of any outstanding unresolved objections. The site performs extremely well when measured against the Council’s agreed criteria for determining such applications.”
On the same planning committee agenda as this application was one for an extension to one of two sites in Salter Street, Cheswick Green. This application can be viewed here : http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s1863/131483SALTERSTREET.pdf . This application was refused but it is important to state I understand the Secretary of the Independent Ratepayers Association (who saw fit to address the meeting in respect of the Dickens Heath Road site – thus preventing the local parish council from addressing the committee) did submit a report to the council last year suggesting one of the two Salter Street sites could be extended. I totally disagree with this suggestion, which could be interpreted by a planning inspector as highlighting some local support. The Salter Street sites are very close to a church and a large primary school and I believe any expansion here is inappropriate. This was also on of my considerations in agreeing to the Uplands application.
In concluding I wish to highlight that the previously ‘unauthorised’ site at Uplands has posed little problems for residents and even when I had an allotment next to the site I did not know it was a traveller site. I also suspect the vast majority of residents were also not aware of the site and a bit of scaremongering has waged in order to try and bring local opposition.
Many residents of Tidbury Green will have received notification of the formal planning application by Lioncourt Homes, who wish to build up to 190 dwellings on this land. The farm is designated under the borough’s draft Local Development Plan (LDP) to be returned to the green belt. It is hoped the planning inspector will be signing off the LDP in a matter of weeks, but in the meantime Blythe ward is subjected to several planning applications.
Readers can access the application via the councils website via this link (search for application 2013/1705): http://www.solihull.gov.uk/planning/dc/viewapp.asp . However, for ease I have posted some of the documents here: 1705_arboricultural_survey_report 1705_design_and_access_statement_part_1 1705_design_and_access_statement_part_2 1705_design_and_access_statement_part_3 1705_planning_statement 1705_public_consultation_statement
A few sundays ago I joined Peter Seddon, Chair of Tidbury Green Parish Council and we went on a tour of Tidbury Green to judge the inaugural scarecrow competition. Peter had the easy task of photographing the exhibits whilst I was sole judge and jury.
There were 17 entries in all and the standard was superb: I shall post photographs.
I will not state here who i judged as winners, prizes will be awarded at an event at the village hall on Saturday 19 October. Unfortunately i can not attend that as I will be presenting a cheque from the Mayors Charity Fund to Olton Mere.
The actual location is not within the Blythe Ward boundary, being just across the road in the Shirley South Ward. However, issues in Highlands Road have a direct effect in Monkspath and I make readers aware.
An application, number 2013/1525, has been submitted to develop land at the rear of the existing Porch showrooms. See via this link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/planning/dc/ViewApp.asp
I am not aware exactly what is to be constructed but I have raised a few issues with the planning officers, such; the height of the buildings (so they do not impose on existing levels, and ensuring there will be sufficient on-site car parking for staff/visitors to the new premises.
Some residents have spoken to me about the development in Highlands Road; being a resident of Monkspath for over 30 years I did know that this land was safeguarded for business purposes when Monkspath was first developed. Indeed, about 4 years ago developers received outline permission to build hotel further along the road.
We must ensure any development is appropriate and does not infringe our superb local nature reserve on the adjoining land.
I have posted a planning application to build a dormer bungalow on greenbelt land in Houndsfield lane, Tidbury Green Planning Application Houndsfield Lane . The report by the councils planning officer recommended the members of the planning committee refuse the application, mainly because it the site is greenbelt land. I submitted my representation, supporting the officers recommendations and this is here: Re Houndsfield Lane
I was particularly concerned that IF this application was successful then other greenbelt sites in the area could be subject to individual applications to build houses. I made a verbal representation at the planning committee meeting and stressed it is essential that IF any development is undertaken in Houndsfield Lane, or any other are in Tidbury Green then it has to be done in strategic manner and not piecemeal. Thankfully most members of the planning committee agreed and the application was refused.
The unusual aspect of this story is that, at short notice, I was asked to substitute at the meeting for Cllr Jeff Potts, who was unable to attend. Because I had already submitted my representation this meant I had to leave my seat and speak at the place designated for guest speakers. I was also not allowed to remain in the room whilst members discussed and voted on the issue.
The latest report covering the whole of the Meriden (rural) side of Solihull is posted here Newsletter October 2013 . As usual, some excellent work being done in partnership both in Blythe ward and Solihull in general. I also realise I did not post Septembers report, her it is: Newsletter September 2013
Not a lot of people know that Monkspath has history going back to the 13 century and some of its footpaths are historic. For instance, there was/is a path used by Monks to travel between monasteries and abbeys in the area. There is also a footpath, leading from Shelly Crescent towards Stratford Road. This runs alongside the rear of Notcutts garden Centre and Tescos and leads onto the Blythe Valley Country Park once the main A34 is crossed. This footpath was called the Kings Highway and historic maps mention Shelly Lane and the highway. The ever reliable Wikipedia has more on Monkspath http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkspath
Anyway, I walked Millie down this footpath yesterday, specifically to look at some work undertaken by the Community Payback Team recently. They were tasked by our neighbourhood officers with clearing the footpath of litter and painting the wooden bridges. The work was done to a high standard and I have taken a few photographs of the walk and surround fields. Yes, some litter has returned and I, together with the neighbourhood officers, are talking to managers at Tesco and McDonald’s, looking at ways in which they can help.
Much has been mentioned about the land on Tanworth Lane, known as Mount Dairy Farm, Cheswick Green, Shirley, Solihull. The site is subject to the council’s Local Development Plan (LDP) ‘Solihull Draft Local Plan – Shaping a Sustainable Future’ which was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in September 2012. The LDP is yet to be formally adopted but the Planning Inspector, in his interim comments (April 2013) has stated the plan is sound. The LDP submission document can be viewed via this link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/Solihull_Draft_Local_Plan_Sept_2012.pdf and the inspector interim conclusions via this one: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/Interim_Conclusions.pdf . The inspector is to take further submissions in October 2013 before presenting his final report, hopefully this side of the New Year. That no comment has been made about Mount Dairy Farm can be construed as the inspector being satisfied with its inclusion in Solihull’s LDP.
The main issues local residents, especially near to Willow Drive and Coppice Walk, Cheswick Green have with the site is the presence of Mount dairy Brook, a waterway that flows into the River Blythe nearby. Severe flooding took place in 2007 and 2012 and residents are naturally concerned that any development on the site (Mount Dairy Farm) will only cause more flooding to gardens and roads in the vicinity. There is a real fear that if development is allowed then flooding of houses will occur. The site plan can be found on page 168 of the LDP and on page 147 readers can see the site is set for release after 1 April 2023. I am content with this, purely on the basis that, having taken into consideration the history of the site, the period between now and 2023 will allow a detailed examination of the effects of any flooding taking place in the next few years and how any development on the site will affect the locality. It is reasonable to suggest that recent wet weather is as a result of climate change, and even if you are a climate change denier, the flooding of 2007 and 2012 bear more time for scrutiny.
I have met with officers of the council who are responsible for the sustainable development in the borough. I wished to find out as much as I could about the site and how it came to be included in the recent LDP.
Mount Dairy Farm has been the subject of development as far back a 1991/1992, when local authorities had a Unitary Development Plan (UDP). In a report by a Planning Inspector, dated 22 July 1992, the inspector commented, at paragraph 2.339 (page 58) ‘Gallagher’s Cheswick Green site with its 27 acre and proposed 250 houses could be made available in the next two years’ It goes on to state ‘Development of the site would make Cheswick Green with its 800 or so 1970s houses a more compact settlement, physically linking older housing fronting Tanworth Lane with more modern housing to the east’. In para 2.344 (page 59) the inspector recommends the council give consideration to omitting two sites owned by Gallagher (including Mount dairy Farm) be omitted from the Green Belt. I have posted the link to this document here: MDF 1992 Rpt (1)
On page 175 of the same report, (Rpt 2) MDF 1992 Rpt (2) , in para 6.55 (a) and (b) recommended Solihull Council to give consideration to his comment to: ‘assessing the Borough’s long term development needs and deciding where a reasonable amount of land to meet theses needs should be safeguarded; and ensuring that the aforesaid land is safeguarded by appropriate development control policies’. Mount Dairy Farm became land ‘safeguarded’ for possible use as land for housing development.
The next important date is 1996, when the borough’s UDP was reviewed. Document MDF 1996 Rpt MDF 1996 Rpt is an extract from the Inspectors report. The two pages scanned from the report relate to the site in Tanworth Lane. The findings are quite telling and a sentence in para 5.4.2 reads ‘…would mean the loss of attractive green fields but the question was explored at the 1991 Inquiry and Inspector Bushby concluded that this site should have a high priority for housing; and there is insufficient reason to depart from his conclusions’.
In 2006 the site was again identified for possible development (page 23) within the Solihull Unitary Development Plan 2006: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/2006writtenstatementcomp.pdf . When reviewing the 1997 UDP (in 2005) the then Planning Inspector recommended no modifications to the boroughs UDP in respect of Mount dairy Farm: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/Ch03.pdf (see pages 40/41). He did refer to:
• Are there any exceptional circumstances to justify deleting this site as
safeguarded land and returning it to the Green Belt, in view of its
background and evolution;
• Is this site appropriately identified as an area of safeguarded land,
particularly in view of locational and sustainability considerations and the
impact on the character of the settlement, residential amenity, traffic and
• Is there a compelling case to justify designating this site as a strategic
housing allocation to meet current and future housing land requirements.
He concluded in para 3.161 ‘Consequently, I conclude that this site is appropriately designated as safeguarded land and there are no exceptional circumstances to justify returning it to the Green Belt’. He did though stress: ‘The detailed concerns of local residents and others would be fully addressed if and when a decision is taken to consider this site for housing development in the future’.
Although brief, this report is detailed in respect of dates when Mount Dairy Farm was considered by different planning inspectors. In respect of the current LDP, page mentions planning policy H2 and clearly advises that safeguarded land needs to be considered before green belt land. This is the case with Mount Dairy Farm and why it has remained as land for release for possible housing development. The current LDP (albeit still to be adopted) is specific about the Mount Dairy Farm site in stipulating a proportion of land should be allocated for the provision of open space and there should be flood attenuation measures.
Readers may wish to view my post, of 10 July, about the public consultation/exhibition held by Bloor Homes as part of their pre-planning application consultation for development of this site: http://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2013/07/10/tanworth-lane-cheswick-green/ .
I/we await a formal planning application by Bloor Homes to develop the site and until then there is little that can be done. I will object to any planning application purely on the basis that the LDP has sustainability of housing development at its heart and that by not releasing the land for development until after 1 April 2023 flood risks should either have been realised or effective action by the Environment Agency radically reduced the likelihood of future flooding and that allowing release at this date will help local schools and service adapt to the increase in housing development in a structured manner.
In any event a formal planning application by Bloor Homes (or any other developer) needs to show a detailed flood risk assessment which both Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and the Environment Agency will need to accept.
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