Birmingham Development Plan 2031: Comments Form - Part C: Comments on the duty to co-operate and legal compliance
Sutton MP Andrew Mitchell addresses green belt campaigners
5th January 2014
Sutton Coldfield Rural Campaign/Project Fields and Beacon Street Area Residents' Association (BSARA), a member of the Lichfield Alliance have been examining the Birmingham Development Plan 2031 (Pre-submission version) since it was released in October 2013 and have concluded, that in its current form, a Planning Inspector would rule Birmingham City Council’s local plan is not in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Comments Form - Part C: Comments on the duty to co-operate and legal compliance
The ‘Duty to Cooperate’
The "duty to cooperate" legal test (S33A) is about the process which requires neighbouring local authorities to align their plans when development strategies, e.g. transport or housing, spill across their legal boundaries.
This “duty to cooperate” has two components; firstly to talk to neighbouring authorities, a.k.a. “engage constructively and actively on ongoing basis”; and secondly to delivered the goods where a cross-boundary development need have been identified. There is ample evidence that Birmingham has been talking to neighbours and that views have been exchanged. So it is likely that a planning inspector will say that Birmingham has passed the legal test i.e. engaged constructively. The second test is more problematic. Birmingham has determined that around half of its housing need has to be met by relying on land beyond its boundaries i.e. in neighbouring authorities. For Birmingham’s Plan to be “sound” it must be “positively prepared” i.e. it must show how it is going to meet its housing needs, including cross-boundary allocations if necessary. A joint study to look into this is currently being done under the auspices of the Greater Birmingham & Sollihul Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). Residents of Birmingham should have access to this study when commenting on the draft plan. It appears unreasonable to allocate land in the Green Belt for development, when the alternatives are still being investigated. Solihull residents have every right to make this point.
Why is the local plan not legal?
Birmingham City Council must show that it plan is “justified” i.e. the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives. This is normally done by preparing a Sustainability Appraisal to assess the Council’s preferred strategy against reasonable alternatives. The public must be given an early and effective opportunity within appropriate time frames to express their opinions. To this end the Sustainability Appraisal contains a brief non-technical summary which is all the public should need to look at.
The Sustainability Appraisal prepared by Birmingham City Council is nowhere near ready. Because the Plan is incomplete – as it is silent on how cross-boundary housing needs will be met ‑ the public have been left in the dark as to what the reasonable alternatives are and why the preferred strategy has been chosen.
This is a legal “show stopper” because UK law says that Birmingham City Council cannot adopt the development plan unless it has an adequate environmental report i.e. Sustainability Appraisal.
Commentators should point out that the logical order of work should be (a) complete the GBSLEP housing study and propose various development alternatives; (b) assess these alternatives via the Sustainability Appraisal and (c) put the results to the public for comment.
It does not seem to be in compliance with the law to prepare half a Plan and then do half a Sustainability Assessment.
A BSARA spokesperson said “The GBSLEP Housing Study should suggest solutions to this, but at present the study is ongoing, no substantial negotiations have occurred with neighbours and the draft Local Plan is unsound because it fails to propose an effective strategy to deal with the cross-boundary development needs which it has identified.”
“The Sustainability Appraisal also fails the test of legal compliance because it should have assessed all reasonable alternatives and done so on a comparable way. Instead it merely states that there is substantial uncertainty regarding the implications of cross-boundary development because there are no proper proposals to assess. If this is the case, how is it possible to say that the appropriate split of housing delivery within and beyond BCC's boundaries have been selected?” the BSARA spokesperson said.
The consultation period
The consultation will last for eight weeks from 6th January until 12 noon on 3rd March, 2014.
Submitting your comments
Comments may be submitted:
A comment form can be downloaded by clicking here if you wish to use this option.
By Post to:
Director of Planning and Regeneration, Development and Culture Directorate
Birmingham City Council
PO Box 28
Useful Read: Birmingham Development Plan 2031: Completing Comments Form - Part B Comments on soundness
Council officers will be at Sutton Library on January 16 and 23, and February 8, from 10am to 4pm to provide advice and assistance.
They will also be visiting Walmley Library on January 22 from 10am to 12.30pm and February 15, from 10am to 1pm.
Birmingham Development Plan 2031: Completing Comments Form - Part B Comments on soundness
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