Birmingham Local Plan release may just be too ambitious
Area A. Hill Wood, East of Watford Gap, North of Mere Green/Roughley
17th July 2013
The Birmingham Development Plan, rumoured for publish this Summer 2013, is supposed to decide how many houses will be built between the years 2011 and 2031 and will determine the commercial expansion by way of industrial and office premises. The plan is currently evaluating proposals to build between 5,000 to 10,000 houses and 50ha industrial zone on the Sutton Coldfield green belt, which could result in a local population increase of upwards of 26,000 people.
Concerned Sutton Coldfield residents would not be given an early and effective opportunity to express their views of the pre-submission draft of the Birmingham Local Plan, we once again took up the ‘Challenge Council Leaders’ opportunity made available by Birmingham City Council, to ask any Cabinet Member or District Committee Chairman a question, in person and in public, at a ‘Question Time’ style session during the full city council meeting on Tuesday 9th July 2013.
Our question to Cabinet Member Tahir Ali: “Can the Council confirm the date - I have heard rumours that it will be in the summer - when the public will be consulted on the Birmingham Local Plan and whether this consultation will explain any significant deviations from the West Midlands RSS, for example, “accommodating 57,500 homes in Birmingham without resorting to the green belt, along with any revisions to housing levels and associated infrastructure investment plans with neighbouring local authorities?"
Councillor Tahir Ali replied: "The pre-submission version of the Birmingham Development Plan is due to go to Cabinet and then come to the City Council for approval towards the end of the year. The pre-submission plan will be accompanied by supporting evidence including sustainability appraisal. With regards to the Regional Spatial Strategy, that has now formerly been revoked by the Secretary of State and is no-longer part of the development plan."
Not exactly the answer we were hoping for, although we believe the delay to the end of the year is partly due to the amount of valid objections from Sutton Coldfield residents.
We have since contacted Councillor Tahir Ali and highlighted the following:
I am sure that all those affected will welcome the opportunity to comment on the pre-submission draft of the Birmingham Plan. If this draft is expected to be put before the cabinet towards the end of the year, would it be fair to assume that public consultation will take place during Q1 2014?
Tahir Ali said "Public consultation will take place during 2014".
I hope that the draft Plan which goes to the cabinet will have undergone a proper assessment as to its soundness, specifically the deliverability of Birmingham's housing requirements, including any spillover to neighbouring local authorities. Recent Local Plan Examinations have shown that Inspectors are taking a pretty tough line on the availability of a five-year housing land supply and the obligation of the Council to make up any historic shortfall, which for Birmingham is likely to be considerable. The timetable you indicated during the Council meeting appears to be much more optimistic than that suggested by Birmingham City Council's Head of Planning, during the Examination of the Lichfield Local Plan. He suggested that the allocation of BCC's spillover housing requirement would be dealt with via the "duty to cooperate" and that the various Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were the place to do so. When the Lichfield Inspector asked those participating in the Examination if the "early review" of Lichfield's housing numbers to assist Birmingham could be completed by 2015, all parties including Birmingham City Council’s Head of Planning were non-committal.
Tahir Ali's reponse "It is the role of the Examination to test the soundness of the Plan, but the City Council will do its best to ensure that the Plan meets the tests of soundness before it is submitted. The Birmingham Plan can only deal with land allocations and policies within Birmingham's boundary. The location of housing to meet Birmingham needs outside the city boundary can only be determined the Development Plan of adjoining Councils".
So, on the face of it, it seems extremely optimistic to set a deadline of under six months for Birmingham to conclude negotiations with its neighbours regarding the allocation of spillover housing, potentially do a review of Green Belt boundaries and do a Sustainability Appraisal which properly assesses the impact of travelling to work from developments within the Green Belt or beyond it.
Cllr Tahir Ali said "The pre-submission version of the Birmingham Development Plan is due to go to Cabinet and then come to the City Council for approval towards the end of the year. The pre-submission plan will be accompanied by supporting evidence including sustainability appraisal. With regards to the Regional Spatial Strategy, that has now formerly been revoked by the Secretary of State and is no-longer part of the development plan."
I am sure you know that the law requires that the public be given an "early and effective opportunity to express their views" and that BCC may breach its legal obligations if it places thousands of pages of complicated evidence on its website shortly before public consultation commences.
Tahir Ali said "The City Council will provide opportunity for comment in line with the statutory regulations".
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