Westminster Column

31st January 2015

Last week saw the publication of the Planning Inspector’s interim findings on the Birmingham Development Plan. These findings are the first opportunity we have had since the end of the public consultation and formal hearings to get a sense of the impressions that were made by that process – which saw such an overwhelming response from Suttonians against the Council’s proposals.

There were two points in the Inspector’s findings which really stood out for me, and which allow us all to derive some hope that we are being listened to.

The first was that the Inspector feels that more work needs to be done to justify the use of our Green Belt land. He points to flaws in the process of the selection of the land, and has asked for more information on how the areas that are under threat were originally identified and earmarked for development.

The second issue that is flagged up in the interim report are the figures on which the housing need has been calculated. The Inspector makes clear that he is not satisfied with the current figures that the Plan is based on, and feels that there needs to be a reassessment of the extent of the housing requirements going forward. In doing so, he is essentially acknowledging the case that I and others have been making since this process began about the deficiency in the figures for inward immigration and projected population growth.

These initial findings make me cautiously optimistic, and give me some reassurance that the tremendous work that has gone into combatting these proposals by people throughout Sutton will, in the end, pay off.

Particularly, the shortcomings pointed to by the Inspector add more weight to the proposal, made in my formal response to the Consultation and which I reiterated at the Public Hearings, that there should be an eight to ten year moratorium before the idea of building on our Green Belt is revisited. This reprieve would give Birmingham City Council time to get their figures straight, and to demonstrate to us that they really have pursued all other options fully and thoroughly before even considering making use of Green Belt land.