Inspector boosts Lichfield’s housing supply
Photo by paulwoolrich Flickr
15th September 2013
Planning Inspector has raised Lichfield District Council’s housing target by 900 homes, up from 8,700 to 9,600.
The increase came about after the evaluation by the Inspector on how the Plan deals with cross boundary provision and recognition that it already contains a substantial level of inward migration.
The Plan originally aimed to deliver 8,700 homes over the period 2008-2028 (435 dpa) and on the face of it these figures sat within the 410-450 dpa range identified in the Housing Needs Study, a range that amounted to 8,200 – 9,000 dwellings over the plan period.
However, the 8,700 dwellings referred to in the Plan included 1,000 dwellings to meet the needs of Tamworth and Cannock Chase Councils and when this figure is taken out, the Plan only provided 7,700 dwellings to meet the needs of Lichfield District (385 dpa) over the plan period – a figure that is below the range set out in the Housing Needs Study.
At the hearings the Council accepted that the 410-450 dpa range in the Housing Needs Study did not include the 1,000 dwellings for Tamworth and Cannock Chase so it was proposing a lower housing figure for Lichfield District Council than its own evidence indicated was needed. However, it considered that the important figure to look at was the 903 dpa for South Eastern Staffordshire as a whole (ie including Cannock Chase and Tamworth) and that this figure would be achieved.
In a letter to the council, Mr Yuille said “Raising the annual house building for Lichfield District from 385 dpa as proposed in the Plan to 430 dpa would involve an additional 45 dpa which over the 20 year plan period would amount to an additional 900 dwellings. The 7,700 dwellings proposed in the Plan to meet Lichfield District’s needs would, therefore need to be increased to 8,600 dwellings. When the 1,000 dwellings to meet Tamworth and Cannock Chase’s needs are added in this gives a figure of 9,600 dwellings.”
On the question of accommodating some of Birmingham City Council’s spillover housing in Lichfield’s boundaries, the inspector concluded that all neighbours, including Birmingham, have the right to ask that some of their housing needs are accommodated by their neighbours, but this will only happen once Birmingham City Council has moved towards more concrete evidence and commissioned joint studies on how this will be achieved.
The inspector said “Evidence that Birmingham may not be able to meet its own housing needs emerged relatively late in the preparation of the Plan. Consequently the Council proposes a main modification which recognises this and proposes collaborative working with Birmingham and other authorities within the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership to establish the scale of any shortfall and where it should be met. If this work points to a need for further provision for housing in Lichfield then the Plan will be reviewed.
This appears to me to be a pragmatic response to a changing situation. Given that it has yet to be established what the level of the shortfall in housing land will be or whether any of this shortfall will be met in Lichfield District, I do not consider that there is a need at this stage to commit to a review of the Plan or to include reference to such a review in a policy rather than in the supporting text.”
Although not in either of Lichfield District Council or East Staffordshire’s plans, outline proposals for the development known as the Brookhay Villages and Twin Rivers Park, a scheme that straddles the boundary between the two council areas, were examined.
It is being touted that Brookhay Villages could meet a substantial proportion of Birmingham City Council’s housing needs, without development in the Sutton Coldfield green belt. This is only providing transport providers sign up to the rail and road infrastructure implications to ensure the development delivers its obligations to provide sustainable transport options.
So while Birmingham City Council is happy to offload some of its housing shortfall onto both council’s, it must recognise that the duty to cooperate extends to employment and sustainable methods of travel to work.
The inspector said “The Brookhay New Villages proposal is a strategic matter of importance that warrants further investigation to better understand its deliverability and potential benefits - particularly if it transpires that Birmingham City Council cannot accommodate its housing needs within its own area. This is something that would be likely to take place through a review of the Plan. However, there is no clear evidence at this time which suggests that the strategy of concentrating development at Brookhay Villages would be more appropriate than the strategy proposed by the Council in the Plan.
Moreover, Brookhay Villages is quite correctly being promoted as a single proposal that would be planned comprehensively. However, as has already been noted, the scheme would involve land in both Lichfield District and East Staffordshire Borough and if it were to progress would need to be included in the Local Plan for each area. The evidence at the hearings was that the scheme does not feature as a proposal in the emerging plan for East Staffordshire.”
The inspector also challenged the argument of increasing the level of growth in rural settlements, like Fazeley, Shenstone, Armitage with Handsacre, Whittington and Alrewas, which have been identified following an assessment of the sustainability of all rural settlements.
The inspector commented "It is also the case that such an approach would increase the amount of land to be released from Green Belt, something that should be contemplated only in exceptional circumstances. There is no clear evidence as to why such an approach would be superior to the strategy proposed by the Council of focussing development on large sites on the edge of principal settlements on land for the most part outside Green Belt – particularly as the evidence already discussed indicates that these sites are capable of delivering the required number of houses in suitable and sustainable locations."
So Birmingham City Council should do more to encourage non-Green Belt sites to come forward in the first five years of its plan, thereby reducing the pressure on the Sutton Coldfield Green Belt.
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