Extra Care Housing Development, Chelmsley Wood

An interesting report came to Solihull Cabinet last week, with cabinet being asked to ‘approve the development of an affordable ‘extra care’ housing development at Marlene Croft, Chelmsley Wood, being partof the former Coleshill Primary School site’. The full report can be read here: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mgInternet/documents/s43012/EXTRA%20CARE%20HOUSING%20DEVELOPMENT%20CHELMSLEY%20WOOD.pdf

This is a significant investment by the Council with £1.400m of the total cost coming from Section 106 payments received from other developments around the borough. I stress this point because it is useful I feel to point out this money, paid over under legal terms to the council, is sometimes used throughout the borough itself. We do have similar schemes in the south of the borough but no social/affordbale ‘extra care’ homes in the north of the borough.

BVP – Rationale for support

On Wednesday 30 November 2016 Solihull’s Planning Committee (made up of fellow elected councillors) approved the planning application by IM Properties who sought to build on Blythe Valley Park; 750 homes, a 250 room care facility, a 200 room hotel and a commercial centre for the new development and existing offices. There was opposition from several local groups and residents deserve to know why I and fellow Blythe ward councillors (Cllrs Alex Insley and Richard Holt) supported the scheme in principle.

At the outset I must point out that Cheswick Green Parish Council, Cheswick Green Residents Association, Illshaw Heath Residents Association, Hockley Heath Parish Council, their Residents Association and Solihull borough councillors for Dorridge and Hockley Heath objected to the application but I must point out that they were not wholly in agreement and there were serious consequences for Cheswick Green and users of Creynolds Lane if the views of Hockley Heath objectors were adopted.

For the benefit of all readers the report to planning committee can be read via this link: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mgInternet/documents/s43056/Report%20by%20the%20Head%20Of%20Development%20Regulatory%20Management%20-%20PL201600863MAOOT.pdf . Further details and access to a substantial number of documents relating to this application can be found via the council’s planning portal.

The site was included in the boroughs Local Development Plan (LDP) which was adopted in 2013. This identified that 600 homes could be developed on the business park and highlighted the need for transport and highway links to all local communicates; Cheswick Green, Hockley Heath, Knowle and Dorridge. The main thrust of any opposition though had not been one of serious objection to the development, but rather one of the necessity and location of a secondary access to the site.

Some did argue the existing access to BVP, via the A34/M42 traffic island, and egress, via the bridge onto the A3400, was suitable for the new residents of this development and that a second access was only required to help IM Properties sell the new houses. My answer to this is, would you really expect new residents to join BVP office workers to get into and out of their homes, driving though as much as half a mile of business park? Imagine pressures at peak times and having to take kids to or from school or various after school clubs? Imagine an ambulance having to fight through half a mile of business park to reach someone having a heart attack. I therefore proposed that it was not a case of whether the second access was necessary, but where it should be located.

At the planning committee meeting I stressed that the original LDP, as adopted by the council in December 2013, included as necessary links from BVP to all communities in the area (Cheswick Green, Hockley Heath, Knowle and Dorridge) – which was clearly identified in the report (see below):

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This is quite clear. It had always stressed that just one community should not take all the brunt of any traffic and that if the consequences of the development can be shared then this will help in any mitigation.

Number of houses:

The 150 increase in number of houses on the site from that mentioned in the LDP can not be seen as significant and all objections that relied on that were always destined to fail. The government has set a target of 1 million new homes by 2020 and any planning inspector (on any appeal) would not judge an extra 150 homes on such a large site to be a problem. We need to get over this argument quickly.

Solihull Council has also recently published its draft Local Plan Review where we aim to build 13,500 new homes by 2030. This is not something we would like to do; this is something we will have to do by law. All local authorities are establishing development plans, with all neighbouring authorities taking tens of thousands of new homes themselves. It is therefore not a case of how many, but where they go.

In addition, because Solihull Council can not identify a ‘five year housing supply’ this means we are at risk of predatory attacks by developers who may use the planning legislation to seek planning permission on land they own and use the lack of a five year housing supply in seeking permission for development. This creates a problem for many local authorities and there are judgments made at the Court of Appeal that determine how planning authorities, developers and the planning inspectorate operate, two of which are:

In Gallagher v Solihull MBC (read my post on this here: https://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2014/05/05/judicial-review-of-solihull-ldp/ ) the developers sought to overturn a decision made by the council, and agreed by a planning inspector, wanting to return two previously identified sites (in Tidbury Green) as suitable for development to return to the green belt. This was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. This decision also meant the council had to add at least an extra 4,000 homes to its LDP and then take into consideration the needs of neighbours (such as Birmingham).

In Richborough Estates v Cheshire East Council (details can be read here: http://www.turley.co.uk/intelligence/appeal-court-provides-clarity-application-paragraph-49-nppf ) . In brief, the court decided that in the absence of a five year housing supply. This report states ‘The judgment will undoubtedly be welcomed by those promoting housing development, particularly in areas with dated local plans and/or a lack of housing land’.

Whether we like this or not we can not just ignore these judgements and when local residents claim the views of local people are being ignored they are not being ignored because of bloody mindedness by local planners, they are not being ignored but the law and its determination must take precedence over local wishes.

Were all objectors on the same hymn sheet?

The answer to this is a resounding ‘No’ with pretty well each body having different views in respect of the location of the second access. Some did in fact continue to oppose any second access, stating the existing access/egress was sufficient, but also proposed different second access points.

For example, Hockley Heath Parish Council and Residents Association were open in agreeing to the development as long as the second access was not in Kineton Lane. A meetings I attended, including one held by Hockley Heath Parish Council (attended by the council’s planners and highway officers, developers and their agents, Cheswick Green parish council, Dorridge and Hockley Heath ward councillors and myself and Cllr Alex Insley) saw the first suggestion of ‘building a road from BVP straight to Creynolds Lane’. They also liked another suggestion of the second access going through Winterton Farm onto Ilshaw Heath Road, nearer to Cheswick Green. Basically, they wanted the second access to be away from Kineton Lane which might have taken vehicles into Hockley Heath. I informed them they didn’t mind their young people driving onto BVP for jobs but did not want anyone driving to their shops and services.

I and all members of the planning committee received emails from the Chair of the Hockley Heath Residents Association calling for the road across open fields and a river onto Creynolds Lane. I replied that this was madness. This was one of the clear and present dangers if no one had stood up to them and their views may have found support from members of the committee (even through this would have meant putting a road across up to half a mile of open land). This can be seen from the text of an email sent to all members of the planning committee and borough planning officers on behalf of Hockley Heath Residents Association:

Dear Cllr Hawkins.

Thank you for your response of 28th November. I am very sorry indeed that you have concerns regarding the use of currently open farmland for direct access to Creynolds Lane. May I respectfully offer the following comments, hopefully for your further consideration.

1)      The land required for access to BVP would be relatively very small and comprise a narrow strip c. 10 yards wide. The access road could readily be accommodated close to the present western boundary of the farmland in question (adjacent to Shirley Golf Course) and would result in the loss of a relatively small area of the present farmland.

2)      The farmland in question is currently used for grazing only. It is generally inaccessible to public use and visibility from surrounding roads is very restricted indeed.

3)      Whilst currently designated ‘Green Belt’, the location of this land, encompassed by Creynolds Lane and Illshaw Heath Road, must surely make it very vulnerable for ‘residential development’ at some point in the future.

4)       I personally understand that this land was/is available for sale; however, I must confess that this is presently ‘hearsay’.

5)      Such direct connection to/from BVP and Cheswick Green would fully achieve the stated objective of connectivity between these two areas, which Kineton Lane clearly fails to do.

Finally, I would respectfully stress that the connection to/from Kineton Lane, as currently proposed, would effectively provide new access points to the BVP development which are strung out along the existing A34 to the south of M42, namely :- 1) At A34 Box Trees roundabout and 2) A34/School Road, Hockley Heath. We consider that this would be a disaster for residents Hockley Heath and Illshaw Heath; even more so for the potential residents of BVP, who would be completely isolated.

From this, and similar emails, it is clear there was a substantial effort to establish the second access directly onto Creynolds Lane. This was to me a clear case of wanting to ensure that any traffic should go to Cheswick Green and not anywhere near to them.

Similarly, in the meetings I and Cllr Alex Insley held with Cheswick Green Residents Association it was agreed the threat of the second access being moved to Illshaw Heath Road (near to Winterton Farm) or Creynolds Lane was to be completely avoided. At these meetings I also highlighted possible complications because pretty well all the land to the west and south of BVP had been submitted for inclusion in the boroughs Local Development Plan Review (see map below showing submissions – BVP is 146). BVP had been agreed in the previous plan but all other sites numbered were new submissions.

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Thankfully, both sites have not been included in the preferred options proposals although I am sure the owners/developers of these sites will petition the planning inspector to put them in.

I hope you have found this of some interest. As with all decisions there will be some who will not agree and that I and fellow ward councillors should have objected to anything. This is not a principled position to adopt and there is sometimes phoney objections. As I have hopefully explained, this site was always going to be developed and the issue at hand was ‘how to make sure any consequences were fairly distributed’ and make sure calls for everything to be dumped towards Cheswick Green failed. I hope I have made clear there was more to this that meets the eye and that all objectors were not really saying the same thing.

I did point out in my representation that the residents of Kineton Lane and Illshaw Heath would bear the brunt of the new traffic along this stretch of the road, but measures taken through highway works will help reduce the impact and also slow vehicles down, especially at the junction at School Lane near to the bakery.

Please feel free to make comment. It is important to me that any decision taken should be explained where requested.

ROLL OF COUNCILLORS – REPORT via Centre for Public Scrutiny

The Councillors Commission, launched by the Local Government Research Unit in partnership with the De Montfort University and the Municipal Journal, has produced an interim report on the role of councillors based on the 20 round tables and 147 written submissions.

The report identifies the constant themes with which councillors are continually engaging, such as their political and policy roles, relationships with constituents, tasks at the council, time commitments and the various pressures generated by both the wards they represent and the broader council of which they are members.

The report also highlights new challenges to the councillors traditional roles and work – such as austerity, devolution, government policy change, and the demands on councillors to engage in various partnerships are reshaping expectations on councillors.

Based on the interim findings, councillors do not expect adoration from the public, the media, or the government, but would like those bodies to understand councillors’ roles, powers, functions, and tasks along with the limited nature of the resources available to them. The report strongly argues that providing councillors with enough support and resources is a vital component in assuring that councillors are able to meet the current challenges, and that reducing the amount of the available support would constitute a “false economy”.

The Interim Report can be read here: cc-interim-report-oct-16

The Councillors Commission will continue to receive written evidence and is expected to conduct several more round tables prior to publishing the final report at the end of January 2017.

MOUNT DAIRY FARM – APPLICATION FOR AN ADDITIONal 54 HOMES

Planning Application PL/2016/02759/PPFL refers to the – Erection of 54 dwellings following the granting of outline permission 2014/1163/S (PL/2014/01985/OLM) for 220 dwellings for land at Tanworth Lane, Cheswick Green, Solihull. | Land Adjacent To Mount Farm Tanworth Lane Shirley Solihull.

In brief, permission was granted to for the erection of 220 houses (subject to reserved matters within phase 2 of the development) and now we see the submission of Phase 2 and 2a with an application to increase the total number of dwelling by 54. The link to the council’s planning portal where you can access documents is shown here: http://publicaccess.solihull.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=OFX33ROEHJ500

Here is the site location plan: pl_2016_02759_ppfl-phase_2a_location_plan-582613

Shown below is a document I forwarded to Cheswick Green Parish Council a few weeks ago. The document is basically my notes following a meeting with representatives of Bloor Homes, their agents and a council planning officer. It is meant to be pragmatic, although some might accuse me of rolling over to satisfy developers. However, as with all law, planning law is a minefield and recognition of decrees from central government (in respect of the need for more houses) and the penalties imposed through the planning inspectorate if local authorities make perverse objections. The section ‘The Bottom Line’ gives my thoughts ‘ Extra 54 homes: I feel this will not be too much a barrier for the planning department and suspect the planning inspectorate will take short shrift if the local authority refuses more affordable houses being built within an existing development footprint. There is a genuine need for these houses and one complaint I do have when trying to justify development is that ‘most of the houses are not affordable and are 4/5 bedroom houses’. The document can be read here: notes-from-meeting-with-bloors-and-planning

What is significant is that a decrease of 4/5 bedroom houses will see an increase in 2 bedroom houses. These will be deemed as ‘affordable’ and I doubt any planning inspector in the country will object to affordable houses being built. This is my presumption but I feel this is soundly based. No objection to the development of much needed affordable houses is likely to succeed, especially if the footprint of the original permitted development is not increased and the area for open public green space remains the same as well.

Below is a photograph showing the previously agreed plans with the new proposals:

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Other documents can be read here. These include the consultation leaflet, flood risk assessment, and final consultation report: pl_2016_02759_ppfl-flood_risk_assessment_addendum-october_2016-584540pl_2016_02759_ppfl-phase_2_001_final_consultation_report-582615

Having stated the above I seek resident’s views and thoughts on the proposals.

 

 

INDEPENDENT REMUNERATION PANEL REVIEW OF MEMBERS’ ALLOWANCES

Always a difficult subject and one not to be taken lightly following the decision by the House of Commons to vote themselves a 10% pay rise earlier this year.

The issue about Allowances for Councillors is sometimes complex. Should people get an allowance for a task they are willing to undertake? Should the allowance be substantial enough to enable someone to devote their full time to the tasks? If you do not offer sufficient allowances what type of candidate will you expect?  These, and many other arguments can and will be debated.

Interestingly, paragraph 6.1.2  of the full report reads ‘The Panel acknowledges that the role of Councillors depends on a sense of social responsibility and public service and that they are motivated to a significant extent by a sense of public good. Nevertheless, those who decide to stand for election should not be required to make unreasonable sacrifices in their private lives’. The full report, providing details of the Independent Remuneration Committee can be read here:  irp-report-to-smbc-16-17

In brief, there is an increase on allowances and the report also recognises members themselves refused to accept a recommended increase a few years back and that there has been no change since 2010/11 municipal year.

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The covering report and a short version that will go before the Councils Governance Committee next week can be found here: independent-remuneration-panel-review-of-members-allowances and proposed-new-16-17-allowances-scheme

Any recommendation has to be ratified by Full Council when it meets on Tuesday 6 December. It will be an interesting debate.

 

 

Have your say on proposals on removing the cap on non-residential care charges from April 2017

As you may know, the Council introduced changes in April 2015 to the way we work out the contribution people make towards their non-residential costs. When the changes were introduced, this meant some people who had previously paid nothing had to pay something towards the cost of their care. Therefore, to help support those who had been receiving free care but would now need to pay, a £30 per week cap on charges was also agreed for 12 months from April 2015.

We then consulted with people in October 2015 on how we intended to remove the cap on charges and the timescales for this.The outcome of the consultation was that the majority of respondents favoured a gradual removal of the cap from April 2016 to April 2019. The cap would then be removed altogether.

The council would now like your views about bringing forward the removal of the cap from April 2017.

For further information about the proposed changes please read the consultation document.

How to respond

The Council has some different options for removing the cap and would like your feedback. Your views are very important, to respond to the survey you can either:

The response form can be returned by:

  • handing in the form at one of the day centres
  • handing in the form at one of our Solihull Connect walk in centres or Solihull Connect Local hubs
  • returning your form by post to: Income & Awards, PO Box 8118, Council House, Solihull, West Midlands, B91 9WZ
  • The consultation closes on Monday 23 January 2017.

    The last day you can return your response form by post is Thursday 19 January 2017.

Solihull’s annual rough sleeper estimate

Solihull Council is encouraging members of the public to support its annual rough sleeper estimate.  The Council, along with a number of local authorities in the West Midlands, is planning to submit this year’s rough sleeper estimate for the evening of Thursday 10 November 2016. This will take into account reports made between Monday 7 and Friday 11 November.

We are asking members of the public to inform it of any person sleeping rough in Solihull via the Streetlink reporting mechanism at: http://www.streetlink.org.uk/ or 0300 500 0914.

A Press release has been made – Councillor Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Member for Environment, Housing & Regeneration, said: “I encourage residents to report any rough sleepers, so we can provide an accurate return to government and more importantly, make sure that anyone sleeping rough in Solihull is aware of the support that is on offer to help them off the streets.”

The number of people who sleep rough in Solihull is small and those that choose to are in regular contact with support services.

Since 2010 Solihull Council has submitted estimates based on extensive consultation with local partners. The estimates have been between 3 and 6 people sleeping rough on the chosen night.

These estimates are forwarded to the Government for inclusion in the annual statistical release which evaluates the extent of rough sleeping in England; this can be viewed online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-inengland-autumn-2015

Anyone sleeping rough in Solihull can, if they want it, access a dedicated support service to help them to find suitable accommodation and address wider needs.

Those rough sleepers who do not wish to receive help at a particular time will be monitored and reminded of what is available should they change their minds.

For more information on how to report concerns about a rough sleeper visit: www.solihull.gov.uk/Resident/housing/roughsleeping

LOCAL PLAN REVIEW

The draft proposals to allow the borough to meet its housing needs have been published and will be discussed at next weeks Cabinet. The agenda for the meeting can be found via this link (agenda item no. 6): http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mgInternet/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=5731

The report to Cabinet members, of which I am one, explains the history, rationale and the next steps. This report is here: local-plan-review-draft-local-plan with the draft plan and other appendices (including site allocations) via these links: appendix-2-draft-local- plan    appendix-3-schedule-of-housing-allocations       appendix-4-plans-of-site-allocations

The next steps to be undertaken will be as follows:

November 2016 – January 2017 (exact dates to be confirmed, but will be for an 8 week period) – consultation on Draft Local Plan.
14th March 2017 – Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board – scrutinise the outcomes of the public consultation and consider proposed next steps leading to submission version of Local Plan.

Birmingham and Solihull Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Health and social care organisations in Solihull have a long and strong track record of working closely together to make sure that our local health and social care services are as joined as possible so that Solihull residents are unable to see where one ends and the other starts.

In the last couple of years we have brought this together through ‘Solihull Together for Better Lives’ – a partnership and programme designed around the aim of making sure that all people who live in the Borough get the right care and support, in the right way, when they need it, and in the place that’s best for them.

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At Solihull Council we understand the vital role that our social care services, for both adults and children, play in achieving this aim through a properly integrated health, care and support system.

Indeed, one of the outcomes we are working to in Solihull is a future where people can not only achieve, but also go on to maintain their independence and quality of life. This will only happen through a joined up approach to health and social care, and one which is totally focused on the needs of the patient and customer.

We also understand that the people of Solihull cannot receive all of the health and care they need within Solihull. Similarly, we know that that joined up health and social care provision is not something that should be designed around the organisations that provide and commission it.

This is why Solihull Council encourages the move by NHS England to bring in an approach across England to secure new Sustainability and Transformation Plans. Our draft submission to NHS England is another step on the journey and is the culmination of the collective thinking so far on how to exploit the opportunities before us at the same time as tackling the twin challenges of improving quality and plugging the financial gap.

This approach builds on what we have been doing through’ Solihull Together for Better Lives’ and it is consistent with the Council’s own priorities and ambitions. It is needed in the face of the challenges of rising demand from an ageing population and ongoing resource constraint.

One of those wider local systems is across Birmingham and Solihull. As Council we have been actively working in partnership with Birmingham City Council and NHS Commissioners and Providers across the whole Birmingham and Solihull area to develop our Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).

Our draft submission to NHS England is another step on the journey and is the culmination of the collective thinking so far on how to exploit the opportunities before us at the same time as tackling the twin challenges of improving quality and plugging the financial gaps.

To see the draft submission and further information about our STP, the process going forward, the plans for engagement and to offer feedback now, please visit Birmingham City Council’s website.

Here in Solihull we will be actively considering the STP and its local implications through our Health and Wellbeing Board and scrutiny processes. Information about this will be posted on this page in due course and communicated through other appropriate channels.

To comment on the STP Submission please email BsolSTP@nhs.net.

Solihull Together for Better Lives

Solihull Together for Better Lives is a partnership of local health and social care organisations that have joined together under the banner Solihull Together for better lives. Click on the hyperlink to visit their website.

Over the next five years they aim make the kind of changes that will really make a difference to people living in Solihull:

  • We will support you and your family so that you are better able to look after yourselves
  • We will work with you to make sure you’re getting the right care and support
  • We will provide you with care where it’s best for you
  • We will reduce the number of people who end up in hospital unnecessarily, or find themselves in a home for long-term care.

They work in partnership with Solihull Council, Solihull NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, plus others in the region serving the borough.

Councillor at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. Blogging about issues in Blythe Ward (includes Monkspath, Cheswick Green, Dickens Heath and Tidbury Green) and Solihull.