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: 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.
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