Sutton Coldfield green belt development viability put under the spot light
12th April 2013
The proposed Birmingham Development Plan 2031 is supposed to decide how many houses will be built between the years 2011 and 2031 and will determine the commercial expansion by way of industrial and office premises. To achieve this necessitates that Birmingham City Council has a vision that encompasses the needs of the local community and ensures that the infrastructure is in place to meet the aspirations of the population.
When upwards of 10,000 proposed dwellings are added, generating a 25,000 population increase, how will arterial streets, primary and secondary schools, health centres and hospital cope? The answer is they won’t.
Concerned at the pressure Sutton Coldfield’s buckling infrastructure is already under, we took up the ‘Challenge Council Leaders’ opportunity made available by Birmingham City Council, to ask any Cabinet Member or District Committee Chairman a question, in person and in public, at a ‘Question Time’ style session during the full city council meeting on Tuesday 9th April 2013
My question to Cabinet Member Tahir Ali “What are the results of a financial viability study, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework, and associated infrastructure costs to build 10,000 new homes on the Sutton Coldfield green belt?”
Councillor Tahir Ali replied “The National Planning Policy Framework does emphasise that plans should be deliverable, however it does not require that there should be a financial viability study for individual development proposals. The Council has undertaken two studies relating to the viability of development within the city, namely the Affordable Housing Viability Study 2010 and the Community Infrastructure Levy Viability Assessment 2012.”
Not exactly the answer we were hoping for and truth be told, the question wasn’t really answered. So we have since contacted Councillor Tahir Ali and highlighted the following:
1. I accept that the National Planning Policy Framework test of soundness (para 182) does not require financial viability studies on individual sites. It does, however require that the overall plan is effective, i.e. the plan should be deliverable over the plan period, and financial viability is an important component of demonstrating that the plan is deliverable.
2. The National Planning Policy Framework (para 182) also requires that the plan is justified, i.e. that it is the most appropriate when compared against reasonable alternatives.
3. The National Planning Policy Framework (para 31) requires that "local authorities should work with neighbouring authorities and transport providers to develop strategies for the provision of viable infrastructure necessary to support sustainable developments."
Still disappointed at not receiving a relevant answer, we have asked Councillor Tahir Ali three further questions in regards to building on the Sutton Coldfield green belt:
1. Can you confirm whether the City Council has done an assessment at overall plan level, to determine whether an overall plan which incorporates a greenfield development at the edge of the local authority boundary is the most effective strategy?
2. Can you also describe what assessment of infrastructure provisions was made in respect of such a generic greenbelt site (as required by NPPF para 31) in respect of the paragraph above?
3. I am also unable to find the section of the CIL Financial Viability Study which assesses a generic development comparable to the Sutton Coldfield 10,000 homes scenario. I have looked at the document and it does not appear to be covered by the residential typologies (Table 1) either in terms of the scale of development or in terms of the incremental pressure which such a development would put on local facilities including infrastructure. Can you let me know where this assessment is contained in the document?
We look forward to his response.
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