Sutton Coldfield Green belt plan is thin end of wedge, fear campaigners
6th November 2013
Campaigners trying to stop building on the city’s green belt fear developers will be able to grab even more of the protected land by challenging Birmingham City Council’s revised Development Plan at a public inquiry next year.
The warning comes after the city council’s final draft development plan was issued, complete with scaled down proposals to build on green belt sites to the east of Sutton Coldfield.
An initial suggestion that up to 10,000 homes may be needed spread over four sites near Foar Oaks and Walmley have been scaled back in the face of fierce local opposition.
More than 1,600 people and organisations responded to a year-long consultation over the plan, with the vast majority objecting to green belt development.
Now the plan includes a single estate of up to 5,100 homes next to the A38 bypass near Walmley, with council officials deciding that the green belt further north is of too high a quality to give up.
Accompanying this, on the opposite side of the A38, land at Peddimore has been earmarked for a major industrial site – designed to ensure that Birmingham has the land capacity to attract a JLR-sized manufacturer, after seeing the car maker decide to create its new plant at i54, the other side of Wolverhampton.
But a spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield Rural campaign blog believes that, although reduced, the Development Plan could be the death knell for the town’s green belt.
The spokesperson said “An allowance of 6,000 houses will be allowed on this area, with a release of 5,100. Dependent upon the market, this may just result in 3,500 houses, primarily three to four bedroom houses being built.
“You do have to ask where the demand for the other 5,000 houses has gone? Reduced need, more cross-border support from neighbouring local authorities or more inner city sites viable again?
The plan, which covers development in Birmingham over the next 20 years, outlines sites for 51,000 homes cross the city, about 5,000 on the green belt, and 45,000 within the urban area, despite the official estimated demand for 80,000 homes.
While the Council hopes to persuade neighbours in the Black Country and Worcestershire, which are believed to have a surplus of sites, to take some of the demand, the spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield Rural campaign blog fears that the developers will be able to lobby for further green belt land.
The spokesperson says that when the document goes to the planning inspector, the developers will argue that the Council’s evidence understates the demand for homes and that some inner city sites identified are simply not viable.
The proposal for a sprawling 5,000 home estate also suggests that developers would have to contribute to the construction of three schools – two primary and one secondary – and other facilities such as a park or transport improvements.
But there remains widespread resistance. Chairman of the Sutton Coldfield District Committee Coun Anne Underwood (Con, Four Oaks) said: “There should be no building on the green belt. Once it is built on you can never get it back.”
She added that more work needs to be done with neighbouring boroughs to find land outside the city boundary.
But Council planning chiefs believe that 5,000 is about the minimum level of development they can put forward without having the plan dismissed out of hand by the inspector.
Council deputy leader Ian Ward said: “We have consulted extensively and I understand the reservations expressed by many people regarding the removal of land from the green belt for development.
“However, doing nothing is simply not an option. This is a clear problem that has to be addressed and there are limits to what we can do in the heart of the city.”
The zoning of industrial land at Peddimore marks a return to an old battleground for council leader Sir Albert Bore who as a senior councillor at the time was involved in plans for a micro-electronics plan there in the late 1990s.
A legal challenge from the Walmley Residents’ Association was victorious in overturning the plan.
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The consultation period
The consultation will last for eight weeks from 6th January until 12 noon on 3rd March, 2014.
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