Brum tries to reduce employment growth in South Worcestershire's Local Plan
Photo courtesy of brianac37 on Flickr
14th October 2013
Redditch & Alcester Observer
AN MP has blasted councils in Birmingham and the Black Country for trying to turn Worcestershire into a “sleepy backwater”.
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luffsays he is “alarmed” by their efforts to water down the number of jobs earmarked in a key blueprint for growth in south Worcestershire.
As your Worcester News revealed on Saturday, the two councils have told a Government inspector that the South Worcestershire Development Plan threatens their towns and cities.
Mr Luff said: “I’ve become increasingly concerned with Birmingham’s attitude to Worcestershire – they want the county to become a dormitory for its own jobs and I think it’s wrong.
“Instead of supporting our growth they are actively opposing it and that’s a tragedy – the development plan provides the chance to bring high-quality jobs to the county.
“They are fundamentally attacking our strategy and want to see Worcestershire become a sleepy backwater for them.”
Other politicians, mean- while, have called for inspector Roger Clews to move quickly in accepting the plan.
Mr Clews has just concluded a four-day inspection into the development plan, and is expected to make a further announcement within weeks.
Harriett Baldwin, who represents West Worcestershire, said: “To my mind, the democratically agreed plan ought to be considered the definitive document and the inspector should only be able to make changes where there are actual errors of fact.
“With every day of uncertainty over the adoption of this plan, our towns and villages continue to face speculative planning applications and councils are unable to work to their own, democratically agreed local strategy.”
When an original timetable was laid down for the plan, the inspector’s examination was pencilled in for June but had to be delayed.
District councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon eventually agreed it after some wrangling, which triggered the independent examination.
Mr Clews’ next step will be to either make some recommended changes to the development plan, or move to the final section of the examination, known as stage two, before signing it off.
Councillor Tony Penn, chairman of Malvern Hills District Council’s planning committee, has also backed a swift end.
“It’s been causing us problems for a while now because we haven’t got the adopted plan in place,” he said.
The plan earmarks land for 23,000 new homes and 25,000 jobs in south Worcestershire by 2030.
South Worcestershire were reminded by BCC planners "It appears that the plan fails to address concerns the City Council raised in our previous responses regarding the provision of additional employment land. There appears to be no clear justification for the levels of employment land proposed.
The City Council understands that Worcester Bosch have made it clear that they will not now be relocating from their existing site. However, the SWDP fails to clarify that the land previously earmarked for Worcester Bosch was released on the premise that the land was required for a major relocation of a Worcester-based company. The City Council is not aware of any further evidence that would justify a change to this approach yet this is not reflected in the policies of the development plan. The Council has also previously questioned the basis of the additional employment land to the South of the Worcester Bosch site which could have potential adverse impacts on the development of strategic employment land at Longbridge.
This continues to be a cause for concern and the allocation of additional land for employment to the West of the M5 motorway in the current version of the plan exacerbates this position. It is for these reasons that the City Council is regrettably querying the soundness of the employment land proposals in the SWDP."
NPPF [Para 37] Planning policies should aim for a balance of land uses within their area so that people can be encouraged to minimise journey lengths for employment, shopping, leisure, education and other activities.
It is hard to see that a planning inspector will turn down a balanced allocation of employment and housing land just because it may compete with the Longbridge site.
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