Osborne’s urban planning revolution to get Britain building new homes on brownfield land
19th June 2014
In a bid to tackle the UK’s growing housing crisis, George Osborne is to introduce planning reforms and financial stimulus package in an attempt to inject an influx of 200,000 new homes across the country by 2020.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also announced 10 housing zones outside of the capital will receive a share of £200 million to help boost the housing market.
The Government is hoping to unlock previously hard to develop land, by placing local development orders on 90% of brownfield sites that are appropriate for housing schemes.
Effectively, development on these sites will be pre-approved - local authorities will be able to specify the type of housing, at the same time protecting our green spaces.
Speaking at Mansion House, George Osborne unveiled his ‘urban planning revolution’ to deliver in the region of 200,000 permissions for new homes by 2020 and help boost the Government’s continuing economic strategy.
He said “We have beautiful landscapes, and they too are part of the inheritance of the next generation. To preserve them, we must make other compromises. If we want to limit development on important green spaces, we have to remove all the obstacles that remain to development on brown field sites.”
Getting the West Midlands building
Throughout the West Midlands, brownfield land stands idle while developers put pressure on local authorities, and their neighbouring authorities, to release land from the green belt in order to meet their housing supply targets. According to a Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners May 2014 report, there is enough capacity to construct 66,635 homes on brownfield sites across our region.
In Birmingham, there are almost 18,000 homes waiting to be built on brownfield sites, 10,500 dwellings have full planning permission, while 6,900 have outline permission. However, even with this considerable backlog, rural expansion appears to be the preferred strategy in solving the regions housing shortage.
Birmingham City Council say there is insufficient land within the city to accommodate its target of 83,000 new homes over the next 20 years and have singled out green belt land either side of the A38 in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield for redevelopment.
The Council’s plans include a Sustainable Urban Extension, comprising 6,000 houses and 80 hectares of large-scale industrial zone. Even so, developers are calling for more green belt to be released in Four Oaks and Trinity wards to facilitate the construction of 10,000 houses.
Critics say Birmingham City Council should try harder and make more effective use of available brownfield land. Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne says brownfield land equivalent to 150 football pitches in Washward Heath should be developed now rather than developed as an HS2 marshaling yard in ten years time. A classic example of land supply being artificially restricted by “safeguarding” policies.
Tamworth Council share similar land limitations to Birmingham and have indicated that Lichfield District Council and North Warwickshire Borough Council need to double the supply to 2,000 houses, over 20 years to help meet Tamworth’s needs. This too will result in a further loss of green belt.
Campaigners are understandably baffled by Tamworth’s rationale. The Council has sites at Anker Valley and the former Tamworth Golf Course, which could accommodate at least 1,000 extra homes, but Anker Valley is not viable without public sector investment to address road bottlenecks. Will this pressure neighbouring authorities into releasing even more Green Belt land?
Is this a victory for Sutton Coldfield green belt?
In a nut-shell, unlikely unless Birmingham and neighbouring Local Authorities are willing to work together to map out a strategy to plot where the most sustainable sites for housing and employment are located across the Housing Market Area and beyond. Developers will also need to buy into this strategy!
The GBSLEP sub-regional housing study has been commissioned to perform this, but Council’s, including Redditch, Bromsgrove, Worcester and Lichfield, have publicly aired their resistance towards absorbing shortfall homes from Birmingham.
A brownfield first policy across the Housing Market Area is a strategy Sutton Coldfield Rural has been campaigning for and is welcomed. However, soaking up brownfield sites across Birmingham, including land designated for employment, may only result in the Council exercising ‘exceptional circumstances’ to develop the green belt for lost employment sites.
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