Love thy neighbour: Sutton Coldfield Rural Challenges Council on Green Belt Use
Sutton Coldfield green belt. Photo Courtesy of Martin O'Connell on Flikr.
11th March 2013
Birmingham City Council’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment undertaken in 2012 indicates that there will be a requirement between 80,000 and 105,000 new homes in Birmingham, or in neighbouring Local Authorities, between 2011 and 2031.
This figure is based on the number of new homes that would need to be built in, or for, Birmingham on the assumption that nearby Councils provide enough sites to meet their own needs, but no more than this, so that there is no surplus in adjoining areas to help meet Birmingham's needs.
Birmingham has the capacity for only about 43,000 new homes on sites within the urban area between 2011 and 2031. This shortfall is the reason that the Council felt that it was necessary to
undertake the recent consultation in order to consider options for increasing the supply of housing land.
In effect, the Council’s projections do not include cross-boundary development needs (a.k.a. the "Duty to Cooperate”).
The duty to cooperate requires the Council to demonstrate that in preparing a Local Plan they have worked with other relevant bodies, including neighbouring Local Planning Authorities. They must be able to show an inspector evidence that they have considered strategic/cross-boundary issues in relation to their plan. A shared or joint evidence base would be an excellent way of demonstrating this.
Example: Birmingham provides employment opportunities to its neighbours and in turn expects them to help it meet its housing needs.
If the inspector found there has not been effective co-operation on where to take any overspill then the submitted plan would be both unlawful and contrary to National Planning Policy Framework and the inspector should ask for the plan to be withdrawn.
So what does this all mean for the development planned for the Sutton Coldfield green belt?
Most Local Authorities, with the exception of Coventry City Council, seem to be sticking to their housing projections set by the now defunct Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) report. The RSS was proposing that Birmingham City Council build 57,000 new dwellings over a 20 year period.
So taking into account each council has met its legal Duty to Cooperate with Birmingham's future housing needs, 57,000 houses does seem more achievable than the 80,000 and 105,000 homes the politicians will shout about to promote their campaigns.
The RSS report seemed to think that Birmingham did not need to go for an urban extension, like Sutton Coldfield, and could accommodate 57,000 homes without doing so. You have got to wonder what has changed?
The RSS report also rejected the developer’s arguments in favour of Sutton Coldfield green belt and thought the Black Country a more sustainable location. The Black Country’s Local Plan proposes a level of new housing provision which exceeds the latest projection for household growth. There is therefore potentially available capacity to help meet any shortfall in provision in Birmingham.
These arguments are as valid today as they were when the report was written.
So the $64K question to Birmingham City Council is “Are you targeting green belt only after establishing a clear understanding of your housing requirements and after establishing that there are no locations -- including cross-boundary locations -- which are more sustainable and which make better use of existing transport infrastructure and which don't involve development in the green belt?"
Moment of truth for the Sutton Coldfield green belt
Calls for Birmingham City Council to review housing levels as green belt targeted for new homes
Council targets green belt homes while thousands of houses stand empty across Birmingham
Sutton Coldfield Rural Campaign challenges Council’s housing projections
A38 commuter route puts Birmingham Local Plan in reverse
UP to 10,000 new homes and industrial zone could be built on Sutton Coldfield's green belt