Westminster Column

10th January 2017

Statement by Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Member of Parliament for the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield following Birmingham City Council's Decision on the Birmingham Development Plan & the Royal Sutton Coldfield Green Belt.

1. These are Labour plans for building 6000 houses on Sutton Coldfield’s Green Belt. While we deeply regret that the Government has not seen fit or been able to block the proposals they have nevertheless been conceived and supported by a Labour Council who now propose to implement them in the teeth of local opposition throughout the Royal Town.

2. It should be stressed that local Conservatives are committed to building the same number of houses as Labour and fully understand the need to build more homes for the future. It is important to note that Conservatives have argued that the same number can be achieved without building on Sutton’s Green Belt as alternative sites exist.

3. The perfectly reasonable plan put forward by Royal Sutton Coldfield’s Member of Parliament for an 8-10 year moratorium on building on the Green Belt until such a time as more accurate figures for need become available have been completely ignored and rejected. This would have been in everyone’s interest since it would ensure that full use of Brown Field land was made first. As it is developers will gravitate toward the easy pickings on Green Belt land, which is the wrong way round.

4. Part of the reason why the scheme has not been blocked by the Government is because Sutton Coldfield is part of Birmingham City Council for local government purposes (it therefore falls within Birmingham for planning purposes).

But Sutton Coldfield now has its own Town Council – the largest in Britain.

It would clearly be within the spirit of “localism” now to consult Sutton’s Town Council, notwithstanding it did not exist during the early consultations. We are therefore dismayed, if not surprised, by Birmingham's refusal to do so.

5. A core tenet of democracy is that the majority do not ignore the views of minorities in reaching decisions. The Birmingham community is rightly particularly sensitive to this point.

If this plan now goes ahead and matters are made worse by the complete failure to take on board the views of the people of Sutton Coldfield (the current position), then this fundamental democratic principle will have been breached. Birmingham City Council will have ridden rough shod over the views of 100,000 residents of the town of Sutton Coldfield who, along with their Member of Parliament, Birmingham City and Town Councillors, as well as all local organisations who have expressed an opinion, are adamantly opposed to these proposals.

Ignoring an entire community in this way will inevitably have long term consequences for the nature and structure of local democracy and for local government in Birmingham.