ARDEN CROSS – HS2

I have today received a document from Arden Cross which provides a timely update on the proposals for the High Speed 2 interchange area once the HS2 Bill receives its Royal Assent (at the end of this year) and subject to Solihull’s own Local Plan Review, also expected later this year/early 2018.

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You will see from the literature this is a massive opportunity for Solihull and the region, with potential to delivering:

  • more than 2,000 new homes
  • 246,000 sq m of new commercial space
  • 20,000 employment opportunities
  • new retail, leisure and public realm
  • maximum benefit from the HS2 Interchange station

A ‘vibrant, mixed-use, location surrounding a significant transport hub with fast connections to London, Manchester and Leeds’ will be created.

These links provide more information within the documents: img_20160927_0001 img_20160927_0003 and more information may be found via http://www.ardencross.com

 

 

Planning Application on Shirley Aquatic site

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Planning application PL/2016/02122/PPFL relates to a proposal to develop an 87 bed care facility for Barchester Healthcare. The application documents can be found via this link:  http://publicaccess.solihull.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage

In brief he application  seeks : the demolition of existing houses at 1353 & 1355 Stratford Road and retail unit at Shirley Aquatics and the erection of 2 no. Class 2 care homes comprising a 12 bed Specialist Care Facility and 75 bed Care Home

The pre-submission consultation document delivered to nearby houses can be read here: Consultation Flyer Shirley Aquatics

 

 

 

SOLIHULL and International Promotion

At cabinet yesterday evening we agreed to seek greater trade and other links with our traditional twin towns (Cholet and MTK) as well as forge new links with two cities in the USA and China.

The report before us can be read here: International Promotion and Cabinet agreed to:

A revised approach to developing international links and “twin town” or “sister city” relationships, to be led and coordinated through Economic Development & Regeneration, and in particular to:-
(a) endorse the development and entering into of a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese city of Changzhou, and authorise the Leader of the Council to sign the agreed version;
(b) work towards the development of a similar formal arrangement or Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Mentor;
(c) pursue opportunities for stronger economic links through existing partnerships and relationships, such as Main-Taunus-Kreis, where there are clear opportunities;
(d) agree to the development of a wider international engagement strategy, providing a clear framework within which these links can be established and developed, complementing activity being undertaken at a Combined Authority and Midlands Engine level, to be considered by the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Managed Growth in due course.

We also agreed that before we move forward with this a business case must be brought back to Cabinet to ensure any promotion has a defined purpose and has benefits for the borough.

SOLIHULL Town Centre Plan

An interesting report to Solihull Cabinet this evening related to Solihull Town Centre and the Master Plan we are looking at; a public consultation will be launched next week (which I will post when the survey is launched).

Town Centre

The Solihull Town Centre Masterplan aims to provide a blueprint for future investment and development which maximises the opportunities for Solihull, capitalises on its
existing assets, and sets out a clear vision for Solihull 2036; as a vibrant, sustainable, aspirational and diverse 21st century town. Solihull is already a successful and popular town, and has consistently been named as one of the best places to live within the United Kingdom. With its excellent shopping, cultural facilities, employment opportunities with about 15,000 jobs currently and attractive setting, Solihull has a lot to offer to residents, businesses and visitors.

The reports before Cabinet members this evening can be read here: Solihull Town Centre Master plan Consultation Rpt (this report outlines the issues and refers to the Master Plan and consultation) Appendix B (This document sets out the approach for the consultation on the proposed master plan for Solihull town centre ) Appendix A Solihull TC Master PLan Viewable on line only. 11th-Aug-2016 18.00 Cabinet (this document is the draft Master Plan providing more context as to what might be achieved and some thoughts to start the process off. This is a detailed document – just scroll down the=rough the first five pages).

You may have a view as to what you want of your town centre. The consultation will begin next week, Monday 15 August and run for over one month. I will remind readers when it actually begins, providing the appropriate links.

 

CARE HOME ON SHIRLEY AQUATIC SITE?

Residents of properties on Monkspath that surround the Shirley Aquatics are today being delivered a leaflet outlining a proposal from Barchester Group to build a care home facility on this site.

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The entire leaflet can be accessed via this link: Consultation Flyer Shirley Aquatics

It does appear the aquatics centre has not been going to well and the owners have decided to sell.

Details as to who to respond to regarding the consultation is shown on the leaflet. A formal planning application is expected in the near future.

REVIEW OF LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN

I attended a briefing on 27 July for councillors on the review of the local development plan. This follows on from the ‘Call for sites’ which took place earlier this year. The sites have been submitted by land owners and/or developers who wish their land to be included in the next phase of Solihull’s Local Development Plan (LDP). The current one, adopted in 2013 has been found, via High Court challenge (supported at the Court of Appeal), to necessitate at least an addition 4,000 new homes between now and 2033.

The current LDP runs to 2028 but the next phase will take in on another 5 years. This means the borough already having to identify some 608 dwellings per year (13,336 up to 2033). We have identified a supply of 9,500 within the existing LDP and are required to supply an addition minimum of 4,000 dwelling. This is a minimum and may need adjusting when considering any redistribution for within the region. Many areas are taking their allocation, with districts in Lichfield and Warwickshire taking on thousands between them. It is hoped we can get our final figure by the end of summer. This will be the figure we will need to identify within our LDP up to 2033.

The sites put forward are now being appraised and a preferred option will be published in Autumn this year, going to Solihull Cabinet in November and Council a few weeks later. There will then be published a Pre-Submission Draft in Spring 2017 before an Examination in Public (conducted by a Planning Inspector) during 2017. The council will hope to adopt a revised LDP late in 2017.

How are our housing numbers assessed?

Factors influencing any local authorities housing numbers include Employment Trends; Land and Housing Plans; Rents; Affordability; Overcrowding/suppressed households. The numbers of jobs needed and housing is balanced accordingly.

Any plan put forward must meet three aims. It must be:

 Suitable

Achievable

Deliverable (in both short and long term)

The rider is that if there is an insufficient supply of housing identified then the suitability of land must be adjusted accordingly. This has implications if there are insufficient brown field sites available (as is the case in Solihull).

I will report back following a further briefing session in September.

Call for sites:

I have posted this before but here is a map of all sites put forward for consideration only (note the emphasis on consideration).Call_for_Sites_May_2016_A3_for_website        I have also posted a document giving more detail as to who owns the land , who is putting it forward and providing more details as to the location of the sites. Schedule_of_Call_for_Sites_Submissions

Further information about the process can be found on the councils website http://www.solihull.gov.uk

A few personal thoughts:

Saying ‘NO’ to any more development is not an option. With at least 37,000 shortfall in houses in the region Solihull will have to take its share. We can bleat about Birmingham and other areas but I hope to be able to show you that Lichfield and Warwickshire are intending to take on several thousand new homes (am searching for the relevant news reports). This resonates with me because my Mom and Dad moved us from Small Heath, Birmingham to Lichfield, on the over-spill, in 1957. I am also conscious that (like many thousands of others) I moved my family from Birmingham to Solihull in the 1980’s when areas like Monkspath, Hillfield and Damson Parkway were built (all on greenbelt land).

 

We have all had our own families in that time and if we do not plan for housing and jobs for our children and their children then they will have been let down – whereas we benefited from the plans of previous decisions.

BARRIERS TO COUNCILLOR DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING

I was asked to write up my thoughts about development training for councillors following a ‘conversation’ on twitter with Dr. Catherine Needham from Birmingham University  following comments I made when I read the report she co-authored entitled ‘The 21st Century Councillor’ 21st-century-councillor . This is a great read for all councillors, old or new. I do though need to add that my comments are my personal ones and do not reflect the views of my home local authority or political group. Having had  30 year career in the police, 20 of them at leadership level, followed by almost 10 years as a college lecturer, I do stand by them. More information about the report and other works can be found via this website link: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/public-service-academy/about/twentyfirst-century-public-servant.aspx .

I also hope this link to their blog, which opens up further discussion, can be accessed here: https://21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/blog/

A short bio: 62 years of age; 30 years West Midlands Police, retiring at Inspector rank . Elected to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council in 2002 and have served as a scrutiny member, scrutiny chair of several boards and cabinet member for Resources and currently Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Environment, Housing and Regeneration.

My report can be read via this link: BARRIERS TO COUNCILLOR DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING but I have copied and pasted the text below.

BARRIERS TO COUNCILLOR DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING

 The report ‘The 21st Century Councillor’ identifies the importance of developing councillors skills and goes on to highlight the important skills required for present day councillors and also identifies some reasons why training and development has not moved on accordingly.

Since 2002 local government has witnessed substantial change; cabinet style governance, austerity measures, new ways of working, the push for regionalisation through combined authorities, and the growth of the digital age, amongst others. Most learning organisations will adapt to these important trends, identifying the key areas that affect their core business and developing strategies to ‘be ahead of the game’ – especially their competitors.

Successful and progressive local authorities have adapted accordingly, investing in staff development, especially developing a new breed of public sector leadership model. New ways of working are commonplace, as is agile working. These authorities have identified the need for greater engagement with the public it serves but I question whether local councillors have maintained the same pace.

The report mentions cuts in member training and development budgets following the onset of austerity measures and I believe councillors as a whole agreed to such cuts (or failed to challenge them) because they felt the public would wish that area of the budget should be cut before frontline services but also because of opposition, or not being confident about the need for councillors to identify individual training and development needs.

The new councillor:

Induction training for new councillors does exist and these are generally welcomed. Again, progressive local authorities recognise the opportunity for the more established councillor to take the opportunity to attend these events as a ‘refresher’. However, it is fair to state the take up of such invitations are not great. After the induction programme it seems councillors are left to themselves.

The established councillor:

Once established, perhaps gaining some expertise within scrutiny committees he or she serves on, it is my experience that any further development rests with the councillor. If that councillor has not had the benefit from working in learning organisations or within teams that do reflect then that councillor may not recognise the need for personal development plans.

My personal experience saw 30 years in West Midlands Police where as a police inspector I underwent a great deal of personal development, even undergoing 360 degree feedback as early as 1990. Following my retirement from the police I took, what was for me, a natural progression to lecturing at local college. Here, training and development was essential – for students and tutors.

My experience has reinforced the need for continuing development and that I found the report via twitter does I feel provide evidence that I do this. However, there must be thousands of councillors up and down the country who will be oblivious to reports such as this. Attempts within my own authority (around 2010) to establish personal development plans for some councillors was not wholly welcomed – I think I was the only member from a small cross party group to agree.

The concept of a councillor openly stating and admitting to a development need may be an anathema to them. They may feel this shows a weakness to opposition members, or competitors within their own group. Also, why bother with training and development if you own a safe seat? Of course, having the ‘Cllr’ in front of your name immediately identifies you as an expert in everything (or could do with certain members). If members have an employment history of working in progressive companies with established staff development ideals then they would no doubt appreciate the need and importance of such development as a local councillor. However, how many councillors actually have experience of working within progressive organisations that focus on the need to continually learn? If a councillor does not have this experience (and profiles of members might evidence this) then developing a need for training and development as a councillor might not be recognised.

The digital age is a great example to show which councillors embrace training and development and which councillors may not. The benefits of engaging in social media are real and clear to those who do engage – both councillors and residents. This though demands the councillor to recognise the value of social media and then make a choice to learn how to use it and engage with people on-line rather than face-to-face. Those that use social media do note this allows residents a voice and challenge their elected representatives in ways not experienced before. Engaging with hundreds, even thousands of residents via social media (as I do) certainly has its challenges but it is how you deal with those challenges that is important. Yes, there are those who will not ever appreciate what you do but there are those residents who do appreciate this wider engagement and support you at election time – voting for the candidate they can engage with, not the political party. However, why indeed go to the bother of engaging with residents and a wider public on Facebook and Twitter if you are only interested I getting the thousand or so voters out to vote for you at election times? Do they feel that attending a public speaking course, or some other staff training, really matter on their CV at election time?

Conclusion:

The drive for personal development for councillors must come from within. There appears no body that seeks to suggest to a councillor they might want to consider a specific training need; it would be a brave officer to suggest to a member he/she undertakes a public speaking course, but why shouldn’t this happen? As a school governor I receive plenty of opportunities to attend seminar, training and other events but this appears not to happen locally (I do know political parties advertise some training but do not know how much this taken up).

Report and letter writing seems to me an evident training need for some councillors in my authority (as evidenced by some emails I have received). We could all benefit from public speaking and certainly the need for developing our scrutiny and questioning skills is continuous. How we get there is by prioritising the issue and creating a budget, but in a way that will identify positive outcomes for members, officers and residents. We really need a sea change in how we see ourselves and see our role as 21st century councillor.

 

BLYTHE VALLEY PARK – My thoughts

Recently Cllr Alex Insley and myself were invited by both Cheswick Green Residents Association and Parish Council to informal talks about Blythe Valley Park (BVP) planning application. As a result we can confirm thoughts and this is in reality a position statement. I have today submitted this statement for consideration by Solihull Planning Department and IM Properties.

The planning application is going through due process; here council planning officers will be assessing data provided by IM Properties and working through various transport and highway models. It is expected the planning application will go before the council’s planning committee in September, but here we can expect a bit of slippage due to the nature of the application.

BVP

Schools:

A detailed piece has been posted on Cllr Ken Hawkins website (https://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2016/06/21/school-place-planning-blythe-ward/ ) ; Scroll down to post of 21 June for the latest information about the school place planning in Blythe ward and the relevance to Cheswick Green. There is no change to the situation and although we can expect a school to be ‘named’ for children living in the new BVP development when the planning application goes before the planning committee the nature of school holidays may mean the designated school is named a short while after any planning authority is given. This is not unusual because the main aspect of any decision will be to establish the amount the developers will be expected to contribute towards education in Solihull – we can expect several £m’s.

Lots of ‘Ifs’ to still consider and IF Cheswick Green Primary School is the school chosen to expand to take on an extra year group (therefore becoming a two form entry school) then a detailed plan to ameliorate parking at or near the school at drop off/pick up times must be addressed.

Both Alex and I have been made aware of a suggestion (submitted locally) for an access road to the rear of the school be allowed and some additional housing to allow some sort of compensation to the land owner. Whilst not dismissing this out of hand we have serious reservations here because the land is currently farmland and if this is allowed then this will urge the owners of other fields nearby to argue for their land to be developed as part of the boroughs local plan review. It is likely that when any draft plan, as a result of the ‘call for sites’, is heard in public by the planning inspector lawyers acting for the land to the rear of houses on Creynolds Lane will cite permission for a road access and some houses to the school on farm land will be incompatible with any decision to refuse the main parts of the fields to be refused development. Lots of ‘IF’s’ here to overcome.

Medical Provision:

We are still in the dark as to what is/can be proposed here. There will be substantial commitment to funding via a Section 106 agreement and we know there are discussions on-going between the developers, Solihull Council planners and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

It is possible some small facility can be made available for new residents (if the application is successful) within the proposed care home facility.

What must not happen is any reduction of service delivery for existing resident of Cheswick Green. We can not support the creation of a new medical practice on BVP in the expectation residents from the village will have to travel to this new provision. We are aware of a local suggestion to build a bigger provision on the existing Village Hall. As borough councillors we would defer to the local view here but this does have its own problems, such as: car parking and access to any new facility for residents of BVP and, where would the Village Hall go to?

However, there is a call from residents for better health services in the village. How can they be improved via any funding from the BVP planning application?

A lot more work needs to be done to address this issue.

Suggestion of different second access point – Winterton Farm, Illshaw Heath Road:

Comments on the proposed additional access to the housing development within BVP is made later. However, the suggestion that has been made for a second access point further along Illshaw Heath Road, near to Winterton Farm, is fraught with additional concerns.

This additional access point (if required) might be welcomed by residents of the Kineton Lane area but can only be a recipe for substantial traffic and highway implications for the village of Cheswick Green and beyond, specifically Tanworth Lane and Creynolds Lane. As borough councillors we feel we could not support this suggestion, which again was submitted locally, unless there was overwhelming support for it from Cheswick Green Villagers.

One of the worries if the access point at Winterton Farm is followed through is that this is also green belt farm land and can only serve to add more development opportunities at this location in the near future; where there is a road the likelihood of housing could follow. We have heard a suggestion if the farmer could be persuaded to allow an access road he could develop a few houses as compensation – this is a recipe for allowing even greater development in this area.

In any event IM Properties do not own Winterton Farm and they say it does not have any place in their plans.

Footpath/Cycle route from BVP to Cheswick Green Village:

If this can be achieved without damaging the green belt gap between the proposed BVP development and Cheswick Green village then this may be welcomed. However, if this means the creation of a cycle path across the green belt land, that also forms part of the flood plain, then this may be interpreted at a later stage that development of this area might be a natural consequence. This idea needs a lot more thought to it and should not be rushed into.

Through Section 106 funding it will be possible to access funds to improve existing public footpaths and establish a purposeful cycle route between BVP and Cheswick Green and this is the plan we feel should be adopted in the short term.

Proposed additional access/egress – Kineton Lane:

Although left till last in this report this is a key aspect of the whole proposal and we feel some additional commentary is required on the following points:

  1. Is the second access necessary?
  2. Is there an alternative route?
  3. What are the implications and how can they is mitigated?
  4. A recent development.

Is the seconded access necessary?

IM Properties believe so but they will need to evidence such a need to the satisfaction of Solihull’s highway officers and planners. One of the key lines of enquiry is the original planning application for BVP, which forecast growth in the commercial sector (pre economic down turn) and that far more businesses would have migrated to BVP. The existing access/egress was designed to allow far more vehicle movements than it accepts at present and we are asking ‘what has changed since?’ Is it possible, even better, that existing access/egress routes be used and altered if necessary? We need to be convinced that any transportation modelling to justify the second access point is proven beyond any doubt. This has not been done so far. Here a health warning must be highlighted: as lay people we are not experts and have to take a view from the available evidence and the likelihood of intervention from the planning inspectorate if there is any appeal. Is there an alternative route? The suggestion of a route via Winterton Farm has been discussed above. However, is there an alternative location for another access point? For example, can the existing emergency access be used? Here we are informed this can not be done. However, the consequences for Kineton Lane and Illshaw Heath area might not be altered and we are back to square one.

What are the implications and can they be mitigated?

The immediate problem (if the proposals are allowed) will be for residents of Kineton Lane who will see increased traffic movements. This also has implications to road safety at the junctions of Kineton Lane, Dyers Lane and School Road, plus the canal bridge (which we refer to as ‘Wedges Triangle’).Is the mitigation submitted by IM Properties sufficient to address road safety concerns suitable and sufficient? Have they taken everything into consideration? The proposed ‘one-way’ route into Illshaw Heath Road and Kineton Lane has some merit and might address the problems of the junction of Illshaw Heath Road at School Road, but does this go far enough? How will increased traffic projections be addressed and how can this area cope? Are the models sustainable? Again, we need to be reassured beyond any reasonable doubt?

A recent development:Local media have reported a proposal for a motorway service station at junction 4 M42. More details can be found via this link: https://cllrkenhawkins.co.uk/2016/06/30/motorway-service-area-junction-4/There may be implications for the BVP application IF the existing application for a motorway service area near to junction 5 fails (there is considerable opposition due the impact on ancient woodland and the amount of land take up). Notwithstanding the merits of either motorway services proposal the threat of one near the M42 junction 4 island might persuade planners, especially the planning inspectorate, that the existing traffic island might not cope with additional traffic movements into BVP. This is pure conjecture but is has some relevance.

Conclusion:These are our thoughts. We support development on BVP in principle because the borough has to address housing needs (whether we like it or not) and more housing development will be identified towards the end of the year. This is enshrined in law.If the 750 houses are not built on BVP then they will go somewhere else, somewhere that has even worse implications. For example, if the council does not identify a five year housing supply (and these 750 houses are within that supply) then any application to build on greenbelt land will be weighted in favour of the developer.There is though no passing through this planning application ‘on the nod’. Substantial tests have to be met and the issues mentioned above (plus others mentioned by the community) must be addressed. This is important to the long term sustainability of BVP, Cheswick Green Villagers and residents in Illshaw Heath area. In the short term we do not know what exiting the EU might have on developers and we have seen large construction firms being hit on the stock market. Will IM Properties slow down their investments? Obviously we do not know the answer and we must continue believing the application will continue.

DICKENS HEATH – Update

Following a meeting with Council officers I can report as follows:

CAR PARKING:

I have reported previously the offer by Barny McElholm, from Elegant Homes, to create some 40+ new spaces in the existing car park of Garden Squares East, to allow Dickens Heath traders to use these spaces for car parking, thus easing pressure on Main Street and car parking areas behind the shops/businesses. This is taking its form slowly and should be in place soon and is recognised as a quick ‘win’ to establish some of the lost spaces as a result of construction and development. One of the issues we wished to ensure is the protection these spaces once Garden Squares East has been completed and we seem be on course to achieving this.

SMBC and Elegant Homes are currently negotiating a long lease (125 years) whereby Solihull Council takes ownership of 39 car parking spaces at a Peppercorn Rent once Garden Squares East has been completed. The plan is for the Dickens Heath management Company to oversee the use of these spaces, intended to remain in use for Main Street traders and their staff.

Issues being discussed include the need for assurance as to who will use these spaces and how they will be used. There is also a full commitment from SMBC that no profit will be made from this; there will no parking fees/pay and display but it must be recognised these spaces do form quite a valuable asset and fairness of use is paramount. This needs to be ratified by Solihull’s Planning Committee when the final planning application goes before them whereby the loss of affordable housing within the Garden Squares East project can be offset by a contribution of the 39 car parking spaces.

MAIN STREET:

The administrators (BNP Paribas) are still unwilling to discuss the possibility of restricted car parking on some parts of Main Street. It appears the liquidators are still very cautious and are seeking to sell on their asset, which includes Main Street and associated buildings/land. Once SMBC officers know they have a buyer on board then discussions will take place with them.

LAND REAR OF TESCOS:

Elegant Homes do not wish to retain ownership of the remainder of the car park and it is essential this is not handed on to a freehold purchaser who does not have the interests of the village at heart. The area is being offered by Elegant Homes to SMBC and we hope this can again be managed to retain the existing car parking spaces to be freely available.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT:

Section 106 funding from the Braggs Farm and Belway developments are being used to contribute to a 30 minutes S3 bus service. Centro is seeking tenders for this service.

TIDBURY GREEN FARM – Planning Application

I have just looked at the application which can be found on the Councils planning portal via this link: http://publicaccess.solihull.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=O9MJI8OEFTT00

There is a lot to go through and I have posted some of the major files/reports that go with the application here: PL_2016_01738_PPRM-BOUNDARY_TREATMENT_LAYOUT-546670PL_2016_01738_PPRM-COVER_LETTER-546194PL_2016_01738_PPRM-ECOLOGICAL_ASSESSMENT-548020PL_2016_01738_PPRM-ECOLOGICAL_REPORT-546109PL_2016_01738_PPRM-LANDSCAPE_MASTERPLAN-546041PL_2016_01738_PPRM-OPEN_SPACE_SKETCH_SCHEME-546044PL_2016_01738_PPRM-PLANNING_STATEMENT-546111PL_2016_01738_PPRM-SITE_LOCATION_PLAN-546107

I will make further comment when I have assessed the application and discussed it with Tidbury Green Parish Council and local residents.

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