Green Belt campaigners conclude the Birmingham Development Plan 2031 (Pre-submission version) is unsound
10th November 2013
Sutton Coldfield green belt campaigners currently examining the Birmingham Development Plan 2031 (Pre-submission version) have concluded, that in its current form, a Planning Inspector would rule it unsound.
The local plan says Birmingham has a requirement to build 80,000 houses between now and 2031 but only has capacity for 45,000 in the urban area, with 6,000 being constructed on the Sutton Coldfield green belt.
It also highlights a need to build 33,000 houses outside its boundaries in neighbouring Local Authorities, including places like Bromsgrove, North Warwickshire, the Black Country LEP, South Worcestershire, Lichfield and Stratford.
The plan states a sub-regional housing study carried out by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP will look at issues on the broad scale and distribution of development over the next 20 years’, however, this will not be available until the Spring 2014 and it makes no comment and certainly does not confirm in any way that they Intend to take the 33,000 shortfall.
The current understanding of the plan by campaigners is for an Inspector to examine whether it is sound or not, evidence including a joint Sustainability Assessment and Technical Analysis required the 33,000 houses is missing from the pre-submission version of the plan.
You do have to wonder, if this is a pre-publication consultation, what is the inspector being asked to examine? Clearly he cannot determine if half a plan is sound, when the other half does not exist.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that Green Belt boundaries should only be established in exceptional circumstances. What alternatives were evaluated to avoid development in the Green Belt? Especially when you consider that half the plan / evidence is missing.
Hopefully Birmingham City Council planners will inform the public what they are consulting on in the run up to next years public consultation.
The Highways Agency
Through a FOI request to the Highway Agency, we have discovered they are still awaiting detailed technical analysis of the transport implications of the current plan proposals, including for the possible development in the Green Belt. Until this detailed technical analysis is complete, the position of the Highways Agency, which must relate to its statutory obligations in managing the strategic road network, is not finalised.
Birmingham Urban Area
There are over 14,000 residential planning permissions in Birmingham that have been given in the last four years, which have not been started.
There are also many factories in the conurbation, which can be converted into residential accommodation, as shown in Manchester, where the density of its centre and suburbs are far greater than in Birmingham. Many of these factories are idle or vacant and not contributing to the general wealth.
The consultation process, expected to start from 6th January 2014, will give everyone a chance to suggest improvements to the plan and to challenge the justification. i.e. Evidence. Activists must be selective in choosing their battle ground and be prepared to stack up against legal teams.
The inspector will need to make sure that the plan is sound before it can be adopted.
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