SOLIHULL’S controversial Local Plan may have been endorsed by full council last week but it’s an issue that’s isn’t going to go away for the borough’s main opposition Green Party.
I met up with their group leader Steve Caudwell at Costa at Monkspath near the old TRW site, the location of two new retirement complexes – two of several earmarked for Shirley.
The plan identifies 18 sites for development across the borough to take an anticipated 15,000 new homes up to the year 2036, however Coun Caudwell believes the plan is flawed.
“There is no masterplan for Chelmsley Wood town centre, we know Solihull town centre and Arden’s Cross (site of the HS2 interchange) are going to be developed, so I do not understand why 16 out of the 18 sites they’ve chosen have to be on Green Belt land when they haven’t decided what they are going to do with the brown field sites,” he said.
He acknowledges more houses are needed but says locations like Arden’s Cross, earmarked for 500 homes, could take ten times that number.
“We know it’s going to be developed, so why not put more houses there?” he said.
Another solution could be to build up, though low rise, rather than high rise.
“I think if you ask anyone what would you prefer, to preserve the Green Belt or to build up, I think most people would say build up,” he said.
“Say six or seven storeys with the appropriate amenities around.
“You look at the Extra Care village on the old Powergen site, the main tower is 13 storeys high and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
“It’s about appropriate housing density.”
He also accuses the Council’s Conservative leadership of rushing the plan, saying it’s light on details and carries the shortest possible window for public consultation – six weeks.
“They say if the plan isn’t signed off then it puts Solihull into the hands of developers and we risk losing control of where development goes, but that’s scaremongering, the council has plenty of time for the plan to be fully scrutinised,” he said.
“We have found over and over again that residents do not feel they are listened to by the establishment parties and that’s where we have been successful because we treat people with respect.”
But he acknowledges his party would love to be the one making the decisions.
“People are up in arms over this plan, in Blyth, Balsall Common, Tidbury Green, Shirley, everywhere, and I think there is an appetite for new ideas in this borough.
“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.”
The draft plan is expected to go out to public consultation before the end of this month to test its soundness and legality, however site allocations cannot be changed.
It will then be subject to examination by a government planning inspector.