The 2013 Local Development Plan(LDP) saw development sites approval at Braggs farm and land at Cleobury Lane and Dickens Heath Road.(see pages 84 and 86 of the plan attached: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Portals/0/Planning/LDF/Local_Plan_Final.pdf
The Local Plan Review has identified land ‘West of Dickens Heath’ for a number of additional houses. Pages 146 and 147 of the Draft Local Plan refer to this site, together with reasons for the site to be included in the draft plan and likely infrastructure requirement if the site goes forward. The link to this document is here: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Portals/0/Planning/LPR/Draft_Local_Plan_05.12.16.pdf
I believe this site needs to be examined closely and even though it may remain in the plan submitted for consideration by the planning inspector there are issues that need resolving. The site identified can be seen o the map on page 162.
This area was submitted for consideration by two owners. A small plot of land adjoining Akamba is owned separately to the land we know as the football and rugby grounds. It is therefore vital that some commonality and joined up working needs to be adopted to ensure smooth transition and lessen the effect of development.
It is also vital that consideration by groups such as Sport England comment on the loss of the football/rugby grounds.
In relation to the football and rugby grounds, it seems to be common knowledge the clubs have been in communication with the owner of the land and prospective developers, Richborough Estates. The outline plan is to accommodate the needs of the football/rugby clubs on the current site known as Shirley Town FC (which is the same side of Tythe ban Lane as Akamba).
Having met with the owner, prospective developers and their agents I can state the outline plan is to develop sporting facilities on this one site, creating a sports hub with a large clubhouse, many sports pitches (including 3G pitches, some flood lighting on certain pitches and some form of stands for the two main pitches. The plan is also for public areas to include cycle/foot paths and fitness tracks (like ‘trim tracks’) as well as areas for ‘play’. Here the devil will be in the detail and it is vital the needs of the sports clubs are accommodated before progression to any planning application. I can state here with some certainty that without the agreement of the existing sports clubs and Sport England a planning application will fail.
Development is therefore proposed on the other two sites (Old Yardlians rugby ground and the adjoining football facilities we know as Highgate).
It is a shame I am unable to share the (very) draft outline plans the agent has shared with the borough councillors and Dickens Heath Parish Council; a picture paints a thousand words. However, I do understand the need for commercial confidentiality.
Issues to address?
Pages 146/147 identify the likely infrastructure requirements needed to be addressed. The planning inspector will take note of this and may even add to them.
For me, this site is one that needs close examination, with attention to detail. As well as the sports/leisure facilities a major issue to address is the transportation plan. Dickens Heath already has traffic issues in its narrow roads and densely populated village. It is therefore vital that access and egress to the planned housing development accommodates how the new residents will drive to and from their homes. Measures to ‘motivate’ drivers not to drive through Dickens Heath Village are essential. Additionally, commitment to the improvement of public transport, both rail and bus, should form part of the conditions for any planning application and be identified.
The identification of healthcare issues should be examined in a way that can be of benefit for the existing residents of Dickens Heath. Similarly the identification of the school catchment area, for both primary and secondary ages, should be addressed (here I am confident the two local schools can accommodate the new pupils – this will mean a reduction in the ‘out of catchment’ children attending the two local schools).
The public realm is also an important issue. It is vital that open space should be made available for walking, cycling and general roaming and areas for play – this being in addition to any replacement of sports pitches and facilities. Open space should be available to improve upon that already in existence in Dickens Heath. Leisure space must form an important aspect of the boroughs local plan review.
Akamba itself is an issue, with the site of this business being put forward as land for development by the owner of the land. I and Cllr Alex Insley have met with Chris, owner of Akamba, the owner of the land, prospective developers and their agents. It would be wrong to go into specific details about length of lease etc because of commercial confidentiality and we know we can not bind anyone in respect of private business transactions but we have made it clear we support Akamba and its value as a business in Solihull and the cultural benefits to the borough and the wider region. I must point out though there is no immediate threat to Akamba.