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26th Jun, 2022

Marathon full council meeting as Solihull Local Plan slammed

Ross Crawford 7th Oct, 2020 Updated: 7th Oct, 2020

A STARK warning on Solihull’s already overstretched health services was delivered as Solihull councillors debated the borough’s controversial Local Plan on Tuesday night (October 6) in a marathon six and a half hour meeting that finished close to midnight.

The plan, which covers the period to 2036, has allocated land across the borough – much of it in Green Belt – to take some 15,000 new homes.

However Tom O’Sullivan, chief executive of GPS Healthcare which provides health care for 40,000 Solihull residents, told the full council meeting the plan gave insufficient consideration to health care.

“Local health services are already failing to keep pace with demand,” he said, adding that Solihull’s elderly population was already 30 per cent higher than the national average.

And he warned the rapid development of residential care homes in Solihull was having a ‘disproportionate impact on GP services’.

His comments were just part of a barrage of criticism levelled at the plan, with Jeanette McGarry of Berkswell Windmill in Balsall Common accusing the authority of pandering to developers.

She said: “Our village is set to take an additional 31 per cent of the borough’s housing allocation. Of the 18 sites across the borough only two are not in the Green Belt. This is just shocking.”

Shirley resident Antony Low said his area was taking some 42 per cent of the housing requirement, and was being overloaded with care homes with few affordable homes.

The ruling group’s Green Party opposition slammed the plan’s lack of public scrutiny – the minimum six weeks – and said more time was needed.

However Council Leader Ian Courts said the plan had been five years in the making and drawn from expert advice, including comments from a public consultation and was done health improvements in mind.

“The protection of the Green Belt is at the heart of our thinking and we cannot ignore the law and the reality of housing need,” he said.

“It’s important to stress that this plan builds on three previous rounds of consultation over recent years.”

And he warned if the plan was delayed, it could be taken out of local control. As it was it would be fully scrutinised by a government appointed inspector.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Steve Caudwell, leader of the Green group, said: “This falls a long way short of what was promised for Solihull residents.

This plan is not finished, it’s not fair and it’s not friendly – either to our residents or our environment.

The Conservative administration has taken the easy way out and released acres of Green Belt that it didn’t need to, instead of getting plans done for our town centres and the HS2 site.”

Max McLoughlin, Spokesperson for Climate Change, Planning & Housing added: “They’ve missed the opportunity to use brownfield first. There’s no Chelmsley Wood or Solihull Town Centre masterplans in the document. They’re delivering only 500 homes on the HS2 Station site, that has space for thousands of homes. People really should be asking who is leading this plan. Is it the Conservatives, or the developers who want to build on the Green Belt?”

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