MOUNT DAIRY FARM – Tanworth Lane

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.

Historical Context:

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:

Key issues
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
nature conservation;
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: https://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.

Please feel free to make comment on this site or email me at khawkins@solihull.gov.uk


4 thoughts on “MOUNT DAIRY FARM – Tanworth Lane

  1. Development at Mount Dairy Farm
    Ken
    Firstly I have to declare an interest in the development of this site – as you know I own a minor part of the site, the area set aside by the original developer for the sewage works prior to the construction of the Blythe Valley Sewer. That part of the site the Parish Council have agreed should be developed. But in what I have to say below I am trying to be objective, having lived in Cheswick Green from the start, studied the history of Mount Brook, the Environment Agency Flood Hazard Report and the excellent flood management proposals attached to Bloor’s application.

    I have read your analysis of the historical reasoning behind the selection of this site as a suitable site for development. Through its selection as Safeguarded Land, removed from the Green Belt and now selected as a Housing Development site in the Local Plan. As you say it has been identified as such since 1991. Prior to that the site was in Green Belt and early in the life of the Village an application for housing was refused on that basis. Now that the current Inspector has made his report on the Local Plan it is clear that he fully accepts that Mount Dairy Farm is justifiably put forward for housing in that Plan. The Inspector says:
    82. Site 21 (Mount Dairy Farm) adjoins Cheswick Green, a modern settlement with its own local centre, school (in fact two schools St Patrick’s Salter Street) and other facilities, just south of the main urban area of Shirley/Monkspath, which meets the minimum accessibility criteria for strategic housing growth. This site is designated as Safeguarded Land and came forward at the second stage site assessment due to the need to identify more housing land; it was selected due to its proximity to Cheswick Green and the main urban area, with the potential to improve accessibility in the context of proposed new housing at Blythe Valley Park. The main concern relates to flooding and the scale of development. The Environment Agency is examining flooding problems along the River Blythe and Mount Brook (PSC 20), but has no objection to the development of this site. The developer has undertaken a detailed flood risk assessment, which envisages the eastern part of the site along the flood plain remaining undeveloped, and confirms that development would not make the existing situation any worse and could lead to improvements. These matters would be investigated further at the planning application/development brief stage in the context of Policy P11. Development of this site would represent a sizeable expansion of Cheswick Green, but would help to meet the local need for affordable housing, secure the viability of existing facilities and, with development at Blythe Valley Park, lead to improvements in local bus services. Even though pre-application consultations have started, (a Planning Application was submitted in October 2013) since the site is not a priority for development, it is included within Phase 3, and is a soundly-based allocation. (my italics)

    Flood Risk – The current flood problem is nothing to do with the proposed development, it is there now and will not go away unless somebody does something about it! The risk of Mount Brook flooding has been a continuing and convenient hook on which to hang objections to the development on this site. But the facts are:
    • Currently there are no flood defences in Cheswick Green. The Environment Agency following surveys (Cheswick Green Flood Hazard Survey 2013), has never considered them to be necessary.
    • Rear gardens on Willow Drive and Coppice Walk have flooded since Cheswick Green was built.
    • To date flooding has affected two dwellings (2007) in the last 43 years, but with flood water from a source other than Mount Brook (blocked culvert on River Blythe).
    • The Mount Brook flows, not in its original course but a course constructed by the Cheswick Green developers in the 1970s.
    • Since its construction the new course has never been maintained.
    • As a new course, considerable “washing down” of gravel has caused silting up at points, and under the Coppice Walk Bridge. Hence the cross section of the course has been reduced.
    • The banks of the brook have in places eroded and become heavily overgrown.
    • In short, the existing flood risk has become worse over the last forty or so years due to neglect and a lack of essential maintenance of the redirected course.
    • Besides the responsibilities of those who live beside the Brook, the local community representatives need to determine who is responsible for maintaining its course, and ensure it is carried out.
    • Why have we had to wait for so long to look for a solution?
    Proposals made (by BWB Consultancy, in consultation with the Environment Agency), in Bloor’s application will not increase the current risk:
    • The current situation is not due to anything that has taken place on the application site, the flood risk to the existing properties is already apparent.
    • Surface water generated by the development, it has been calculated, can be fully accommodated as detailed within the Flood Risk Assessment, and there is a potential that these works may provide a form of betterment to neighbouring properties. (see: Flood Improvement and Surface Water Strategies diagram).
    • Surface water discharge from the development will be limited to the existing greenfield QBAR (471/s) for all storm events, with a 30% allowance for the potential effects of climate change.

    Local Need – Ever since Cheswick Green was built, it has been recognised that, because its developers went into liquidation, it was not completed. There remained an imbalance of house types with no ‘starter homes’ or ‘homes for older people’, i.e. affordable housing. In its 43 years of existence Cheswick Green has grown by only 6 (six) dwellings and not played any constructive part in easing its own housing needs or those of the Borough or the Nation.
    The current Solihull Inspector says: ‘Development of this site ……… would help to meet the local need for affordable housing, secure the viability of existing facilities ….’.

    Phase 3 – The Local Plan says: ‘The rural areas of the Borough are less accessible locations and have been phased towards the end of the Plan period’.

    From the Inspector’s comments, above, it would seem that placing this site in Phase 3 is unjustified. He confirms its location as ‘…. just south of the main urban area of Shirley/Monkspath, which meets the accessibility criteria for strategic housing growth’. He indicates that: ‘…. it was selected due to its proximity to Cheswick Green and the main urban area’.

    The same cannot be said for the Blythe Valley Park proposals, which, for some inexplicable reason, are to be found in Phase1.

    It is interesting to note that the Inspector examining the South Worcestershire Local Plan has the following to say concerning Phasing: ‘…… my view is that the reference to phasing in policy SWDP3 E should be deleted.’ He goes on to say, with reference to Table 4c, should the Council choose to retain it: ‘….. it should be made clear that any future phasing indicated in it is indicative, and not intended to prevent development from coming forward earlier than indicated’.

    There are compelling grounds to reconsider the placing of this site in Phase 3 of the Local Plan:
    • It does not fit the rather arbitrary definition of being simply ‘less accessible’, it is in fact very accessible being in close proximity to the main urban area; much closer in fact than Blythe Valley Park.
    • There is clearly an accepted current local need for more housing and in particular ‘affordable housing’ – not to be confused with ‘social housing’.
    • The site has long been accepted by the community as being set aside as safeguarded land and likely to be developed.
    • It is an opportunity for the developers to improve the flood risk situation. With nothing having been done over the last 40 years to maintain the diverted watercourse of Mount Brook;, and with residents becoming increasingly concerned about the risk to their homes, ten more years of continuing neglect of the watercourse is unacceptable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s