However, if rumours are to be believed, the Birmingham Local Plan will be published early summer 2013 and this will provide a clear picture of Birmingham City Council's residential and employment plans for the coming 20 years and whether any of the Sutton Coldfield green belt is to be built upon.
The four Sutton Coldfield green belt sites that were presented to residents for development last November were as follows:
- Area A: Hill Wood, East of Watford Gap, North of Mere Green/Roughley
- Area B: Land west of M6 Toll, North of Falcom Lodge, Whitehouse Common
- Area C: Land west of Sutton Coldfield Bypass (A38), near Walmley
- Area D: Land east of Sutton Coldfield Bypass(A38), also near Walmley
According to the Birminhgam Development Plan 2031, the population is predicted to grow by up to 150,000 more over the next 20 years. The Council needs to set aside the provision for an additional 80,000 homes and 100,000 new jobs to accommodate the increase.
The need to look at an urban extension on to the Sutton Coldfield green belt is due to Birmingham's rapidly expanding population. Calculations based on Census figures indicate Birmingham’s population grew by 88,000 to 1.074 million between 2001 and 2011. A growth rate 40,000 higher than anticipated.
The Council has said there is enough capacity within the urban area to build 43,000 new homes, leaving it with a shortfall of 30,000 and for this reason, the Council is considered building new homes on the Sutton Coldfield green belt.
The Development Plan also asked residents which area of the green belt it would like at least 50 hectares of industrial zone building. Due to a shortage of land available for economic development in the city's urban area, the Council also considering options for a new employment site.
The Sutton Coldfield urban extension onto the green belt could deliver as many as 10,000 new houses generating as many as 26,000 new residents. That is a quarter of our current population.
So what should we be asking Birmingham City Council at the next phase of consultation?
1. Capacity to build only 43,000 new homes in the urban area: In 2009 a Government report (RSS) highlighted that Birmingham City Council had enough capacity to accommodated 57,500 new homes without an urban extension on the green belt. So what has changed? [More information...]
2. Can Birmingham City Council provide housing sites which are more sustainable than building an urban extension onto the Sutton Coldfield green belt? The same Government report (RSS) rejected developer’s arguments in favour of the Sutton Coldfield green belt and thought the Black Country a more sustainable location for Birmingham City Council to build some of its future housing allocation. So what has changed? [More information...]
3. 12,128 (5,131 long-term empty) houses, standing empty across Birmingham: The Department for Communities and Local Government has set aside almost £1 billion for the New Homes Bonus, between 2011 and 2015. An initiative which can be used to fund the return of long-term empty homes back into use. Is enough being done to bring them back into circulation over building on the Sutton Coldfield green belt? [More information...]
4. Converting the many empty offices into new homes: Another initiative by The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is to enable empty commercial properties to be converted into residential use without planning permission. Are office conversions being considered before new homes on the Sutton Coldfield green belt? [More information...]
5. Providing sustainable transport options for an urban extension: Any future large scale development, like 10,000 Sutton Coldfield green belt homes, would require transport options which encourage residents away from using the car. What is Birmingham's transport strategy to support the population increase at Sutton Coldfield? [More information about rail network constraints...] and [More information about the A38 issues....]
6. Using 2008 based Census projections rather than the more accurate 2011: Birmingham City Council's housing forecast is based on a five year period leading up to the credit crunch in 2008. Since then mortgage lending has fallen sharply. The March 2013 Budget has introduced measures to kick-start lending, but it is unlikely we'll see a return to the reckless lending culture prior to the financial crash. Supply and demand? Will residents be able to finance the purchase of all the houses the council would like to build? [Read more...]
7. Financial viability of development site: The recent economic recession, has led to much more testing market conditions and developers are increasingly arguing that their development projects will no longer be economically viable if they are required to support policy levels of affordable housing and infrastructure contributions. In many cases developers are seeking to make an economic case for no contribution at all. [Read more...]