Residents may be aware the council published its draft Local Development Plan (LDP) recently for a consultation on the legality and accuracy of the plan. This followed the publication of the draft plan in November 2016 and a further draft in January 2019.
The issues relating to Blythe ward involve proposed development at three sites.
- Site BL1 – West of Dickens Heath – site allocated for 350 homes.
- Site BL2 – South of Dog Kennel Lane – site allocated for 1000 homes.
- Site BL3 – Whitlock’s End Farm – site allocated for 300 homes.
Following the publication of the draft plan in January 2019 I was extremely pleased the original site 13 had been removed from the plan and this will now because a community woodland between Dickens Heath and Shirley. I was also pleased the number of homes proposed for Site BL1 was substantially reduced from 700 to 350 homes.
I will comment in detail on each of the sites later.
The draft LDP identifies the need for some 15,000 dwellings over the plan period (2020-36) which accommodates the Borough’s own needs and makes a meaningful contribution. to the shortfall occurring in the Housing Market Area (HMA), as part of the statutory duty to cooperate requirement. Some people say we should not accommodate the needs of areas such as Birmingham I point out that much of Blythe ward was developed from the 1970’s with many of us moving from Brum.
Solihull Council, at its meeting on 8 December, approved the Draft Submission Plan be published for a period of 6 weeks inviting representations on the soundness and legal compliance of the plan. The plan has been worked on for over 5 years and drafts published at least twice allowing comments, representations, and objections. Changes to accommodate these have been made and the six-week period was seeking representations on it ‘soundness and legal compliance’.
Much seems to have been made in some quarters that Blythe ward has taken the lion’s share of the housing numbers with one political party claiming that Bythe has some 39% of homes within the plan. With 1,650 homes allocated within the three sites it is nowhere near 39% of the required 15,000 homes required in the plan as is claimed and the statement obviously put forward to stir residents up and seek political support. It is also correct to highlight that other areas of the borough are having to accommodate many hundreds of new homes. The LDP can be read here, with Bythe ward site appearing from page 172: Draft Submission Plan Oct 2020 (solihull.gov.uk)
I also feel it is important to briefly mention site selection. The sites chosen throughout the borough followed a ‘Call for Sites’ asking developers and landowners who wanted their land considered for development to respond. Image 1 is a map showing the location of sites put forward within the borough and Image 2 shows the sites submitted for development in Blythe ward alone.
I post these to indicate that Blythe ward saw a substantially higher number of submissions or land to be developed than other wards. It also helps indicate the sites that were refused. The threat posed if we do not identify sufficient housing for the duration of the plan is that any of these sites could be subject of a planning application with the presumption in favour if a local authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply. This is something Solihull has struggled with in the last few years. Thankfully, our policies have protected the green belt areas, but this cannot hold on for much longer and we will be subject to major predatory development applications.
What happens when the five-year supply cannot be demonstrated?
Where councils cannot demonstrate this five-year supply, national planning policy, rather than local planning rules take precedence. National policy states there should be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” for housing.
This means that if a site can be considered to deliver ‘sustainable development’ then planning permission should be granted, even if there is no support from the council for housing in that location or the site sits outside the Local Plan.
This has led to councils losing control over where new homes are built and having to approve applications for sites, they may not have chosen for housing themselves. Many authorities have rejected these schemes only for them to be approved at appeal.
(This information is from the following document and many similar ones can be accessed on the internet: What is a five year housing land supply? – PWA Planning ). Therefore, the threats to local control are very real and this is something missed by many objectors to LDP’s submitted by local authorities. If we wish more control over development, then a five-year housing supply is essential. For Solihull this essentially means we need to identify that Solihull has to plan for the delivery of 900+ new homes each year of the plans time span.
The previous paragraph is important and clearly shows local authorities must adhere to planning laws and guidance and is not allowed to declare UDI and sate ‘we aren’t having any more houses.’ At election time every political party seems to compete by claiming they will build more house than the other party but at a local level they seem to ignore this and although seemingly agreeing with the need for more houses, object to the locations planned for without stating any alternative sites. The worry for Solihull was made completely clear when the last LDP was adopted and supported by the planning inspectorate. Whilst putting Lowbrook Farm and Tidbury Green Farm back into the green belt was supported by the planning inspector a judicial review at the High Court was successful by Lion Court Homes and Gallagher’s. A subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal by Solihull Council was unsuccessful and eventually both farms were developed despite the planning inspector agreeing with the council. The upshot is – we need to identify sufficient houses for development and will suffer consequences if we do not.