To help residents understand the proposals, and provide facts instead of political conjecture I have provided what I feel is an honest appraisal of the proposals for sites within Bythe ward.
Site BL1 – West of Dickens Heath.
The proposal is for 350 homes on two sites. Originally developers sought as many as 850 homes and the reduction to 350 is seen as a very good result – if the identified necessary infrastructure requirements are accepted by the planning inspector (as is very likely).
The 2016 draft plan saw the site capacity at 700 homes (still less than that sought by developers) and our campaigns have been successful in reducing the proposed number by half and protecting Akamba (which developers sought to be removed for a car park).
I understand the remaining opposition to this site but its closeness to Whitlocks End Railways Station will be seen as an extremely strong point by the planning inspector.
Page 175 of the draft submission plan refers to this site and spells out the infrastructure requitements needed for the site to be developed. These include the following:
- A pedestrian link to provide a safe route to the railway station (as well as connectivity to the Stratford Canal).
- Connection to proposed Dickens Heath to Solihull town centre cycle route.
- Provision of 2.3ha of public open space including children play.
- Relocation of existing sports provision to a site nearby.
- Retention and enhancement of local wildlife sites together with retention of trees and hedgerows.
The report mentions other requirements, and these can be found in the body of the plan.
The councils existing policy (P20) in respect of sports provision will safeguard the sports club in that when a subsequent planning application is submitted provision for the replacement, even betterment, of these facilities should be identified.
The cycleways improvements to the Whilocks End station are a key issue and relocation locally of the sports fields; working with the parish Council we have Dickens Heath Sports Club that could be a key contact for investment.
Pages 45 – 49 of the document ‘Solihull Local Plan – Concept Masterplan’ explains the site analysis, with landscape constraints and opportunities. Illustrative plans are shown but these are not set-in stone. It identifies that further work is required to relocate the replacement of all the displaced pitches and to identify links from the new development to Dickens Heath Village Centre. This is key, and without sounding naïve, any planning application will fail if sports provision is not addressed locally to the required and expected standard and without support from Sports England.
Improved services at Whitlock’s End Railway Station is essential to allow this site to move forward for planning consideration.
I will report on what happens next after going into a bit more detail on the other two sites.
Site BL2 – South of Dog Kennel Lane
This site is allocated for 1000 homes and has direct connectivity with the new development on the former JRW site.
This site remains mainly unchanged since the 2016 draft plan and its location adjoining the main A34 arterial highway and onto the motorway junction has rendered it attractive for development.
Pages 177 and 178 of the draft LDP refers to this site and key messages to emerge from the justification section includes:
- Development to be set back from the Grade 2 listed Light Hall Farm.
- Provision of 8.2ha of public open space and play area for children and young people.
- Enhancement of the bridleway access from Cheswick Green through the site as a pedestrian route and key green infrastructure route.
- Trees and hedgerows along Dog Kennel Lane to be retained.
- Provision of a new 2 form primary school and early years.
- Flood alleviation measures in the form of above ground SUDs features and potential betterment for the Mount Brook tributary of the River Blythe.
- Enhanced sustainable modes of transport including bus service improvements and pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Dickens Heath, Stratford Road and Shirley Town Centre.
- Green belt enhancements to include a country park to the south of the development extending to the edge of Cheswick Green.
It is important to recognise there will be no direct vehicle access into/egress from this site to Cheswick Green Village and access will be via the existing (and to be enhanced public footpaths). The provision of the public open space between this site and the village itself is a key theme.
The green separation between DH and Shirley will be maintained with a new Green Belt boundary – key issue is setting the development away from the Heritage asset building and preserving the green openness of the green belt between Millar and Carter/Shirley/Dickens Heath – the cycleways there should give a great sense of openness in Green Belt terms as you exit Shirley into the Dickens Heath area.
This site is said to be one of the most sustainable sites in the councils LDP and therefore will be difficult to oppose entirely. However, it is vital the infrastructure requirements identified in the plan (and perhaps more to come) are enshrined before any formal planning application can be heard.
Concept plans for this site can be found on page 54 of the ‘Concept Masterplan document. You may recognise the provision of open public space between the ribbon development off Dog Kennel Lane and the village itself.
The continuation of the councils Wildlifeways project, from the Stratford Road, through this site would be welcomed. As will a cycle route through the site to ensure connectivity on foot and cycle from the Monkspath area (and town centre beyond) to Cheswick Green and Dickens Heath. Any pathways must also address the needs of vulnerable people and those with mobility issues.
It may also be feasible to obtain Section 106 funding to contribute towards the installation of Average Speed Cameras on the main A34 Stratford Road in order to address present and future road safety issues.
Site BL3 – Whitlock’s End Farm
This site is allocated for 300 homes and although within the boundary of Blythe ward it has no significant vehicle access to and from the communities within the ward. You will also find that developers had initially seen the site as potentially accommodating 1000 homes and when part of the land was identified for the development of a Community Country Woodland this was reduced to some 634 homes. It should be recognised our campaigning has seen the reduction even further. Page 58 of the ‘Concept Masterplan’ document outlines the site and its relationship in the area at large.
Similarly, to site BL1, the closeness to Whitlock’s End and Shirley Railways Stations make this site an attractive, sustainable development.
I have concerns about the coalescence between Dickens Heath and Shirley; the green space between what is the Christmas Tree Farm is a fine area for walking and the new memorial community woodland is a prime example of keeping the green space between Dickens Heath and Shirley. Keeping the defensible boundary for Dickens Heath, which is the Stratford Canal is a key requirement.
Pages 179/180 of the LDP refers to infrastructure requirements and conditions the council would require before any planning application is brought forward.
- Provision of 2.3 ha of public open space and a range of play areas for children and young people.
- Enhancement of public rights of way through the site as a pedestrian route and key green infrastructure link.
- Trees and hedgerows along bridleway and public rights of way to be retained.
- Provision of above ground SuDS features Avoidance of flood risk areas to north –west of site and potential for flood alleviation measures to benefit the wider area.
- Highway improvements as required including access improvements on Bills Lane.
- Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including improvement of bus services and pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Shirley railway station, the Stratford Road and Shirley Town Centre in accordance with the Council’s LCWIP.
The land to the east of the site, formerly proposed as allocation ‘Site 13’, is now being proposed as Local Green Space for the existing communities in South Shirley (and the new community at Site BL3) and will be a location for woodland tree planting
Site BL3 provides for a narrower front where only the minimum separation between the urban edge and Dickens Heath is provided (by shifting more of the development to the west thus being ‘off set’ from the built-up area of Dickens Heath). Furthermore, it avoids further development in the gap between the urban edge and Dickens Heath along Dickens Heath Road which is the principal route south from the urban edge to the village – as such this is where the perception of the gap should be at its greatest. 620. Development under site BL3 would also allow the retention of more land as open and accessible space south of Woodloes Road, so that it can connect with open countryside further south. This could form part of the Green Belt compensation enhancements in that access improvements and habitat creation in this area would help offset the loss of Green Belt to the west.
It is understood there will still be opposition to these proposals and they are just this, proposals. It must also be borne in mind though, opposition can also be expected from developers/land owners who have not been successful in requesting their sites be brought forward for development and they may petition the planning inspector for him/her to add their sites to the final plan.
Please feel free to comment on this post which is to complement the previous post and the following one –What’s Next.