Revised Local Plan respects the character of Solihull - Council boss - The Solihull Observer

Revised Local Plan respects the character of Solihull - Council boss

Solihull Editorial 29th Oct, 2020 Updated: 29th Oct, 2020   0

“IT grieves me that we have to give up green fields for housing but we are determined to retain the character of Solihull and make sure development is done in a manner that respects our borough.”

That’s the message from Council Leader Ian Courts as the Solihull Local Plan is readied to go out for public consultation.

Councillor Courts was hitting back at the wave of criticism that has met the controversial plan which will see some 15,000 new homes built in the borough up to 2036.

The plan earmarks 18 sites for development, only two of which are not in the Green Belt, but Coun Courts insisted less than half of the homes would be built on green field sites.

“This plan has been in the making for four, five years and I have walked all the sites and we have made a number of modifications as we have gone along,” he said.

“Rest assured I am simply not prepared to put out sites that let developers do as they want to.”

He added that the council was obliged by law to meet its housing needs and was constantly being criticised for not providing enough social or affordable housing.

And he expressed surprise that critics were accusing the authority of not making sufficient use of the new Arden’s Cross HS2 interchange hub or Solihull town centre.

“The hub site is a large area and we are looking at 5,000 homes there. There’s also the NEC conurbation,” he said.

“I also want to see more housing in the town centre and we are inviting interest in the redevelopment of the council house site.

“We reckon up to 1,000 homes in the town centre which will reduce journey times and boost retail for people who live and shop there.”

In answer to complaints from the council’s Green Party that he should build up – housing up to five or six storeys high, he said: “That’s exactly what we are doing.

“And in the areas for development I have made it clear I want to see green infrastructure.”

He also defended plans to site more than 2,000 homes in Balsall Common.

“Let’s change the question – at the moment we have a road running through Balsall Common and HS2 on the way,” he said.

“What I want to see is a relief road around Balsall Common which will relieve the centre at peak times.

“There can be big gains for Balsall Common, accepting the fact there will be more housing, but flash back 50 years and everywhere had less housing.”

On the issue of Berkswell Windmill he added that housing numbers had been reduced and its valuable ecological sites protected.

Turning to Shirley he said: “Shirley is such an important centre for us with wonderful character.

“With regards to the housing provision some wards in Shirley have not had that many, and we have ensured it retains woodland and its ‘green lung’.”

Regarding the surge in care and residential homes in the area he said: “The fact is we have an aging population. The care homes that are being built are coming up through the planning application system and are dealt with there.”

He added that the finishing touches were now being put to the plan and he was anxious to move it on and put it out for its six weeks of public consultation.

“Yes, it’s the statutory minimum amount but this is to check it for soundness. It will then go to the planning inspector who will take into account all comments.

“The fact is people have been having their say for a long time and I think most want to see us get on with it because we do not yet know the final shape of the new planning system from central government, and it is important we lay down a marker.”

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