Builders eyeing green belt development, shock
Area B. West of M6 Toll, North of Falcom Lodge, Whitehouse Common
17th October 2012
The Chamberlain Files
And the latest from the Is the Pope a Catholic genre: Developers were asked where in Birmingham they would like to build houses, and lots of them said ‘on that rather nice, leafy meadow, thanks’.
No, you don’t say. Builders are rejecting polluted, expensive-to-clean, brownfield, former industrial land in favour of the leafy lanes on Birmingham’s borders with Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
It was ever thus, as the city council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment proves. This statutory document drawn up to guide the Government on future development plans involved asking land owners and developers for their views on the best sites for new build.
As a result, 580 hectares of green belt covering 17 separate areas were identified. That’s an impressive 1,433 acres in old money. And 54 hectares (133 acres) were across the city boundary in Bromsgrove.
This document has unsurprisingly created a good deal of wrath amongthe council’s opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups. They have jumped on the Labour-led authority’s proposal to increase the target for house building in Birmingham from 55,000 to 70,000 by 2026.
Lib Dem councillor David Radcliffe has worked out that all that green belt development would result in 26,700 new homes being built, providing accommodation for an estimated 66,750 people. That’s pretty much the equivalent of an entire new town, then.
Radcliffe wants to know what arrangements are being put in place for the schools, health centres, shops, community facilities and other infrastructure required by such a sizeable population growth.
A good question, you might think. But council leader Sir Albert Bore was having none of it.
He pointed out that the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment is merely a “technical” document and does not actually allocate land for development. Well, yes, but since Sir Albert has already warned that part of the 70,000 housing target will have to be built on the green belt you might suppose that the land availability assessment is on the right track.
On the matter of all those schools, hospitals, roads and shops, Sir Albert commented in magisterial civil service-speak: “When planning for future growth that is on a large scale, assessments would need to be undertaken of the needs for supporting infrastructure in considering the opportunity for development to ensure that it is delivered in the most sustainable way.”