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.
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.
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:
- Is the second access necessary?
- Is there an alternative route?
- What are the implications and how can they is mitigated?
- 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.