Albert Bore’s 70,000 new houses: a mad and bad decision
Albert Bore’s 70,000 new houses: a mad and bad decisionAt last week’s full Council meeting, Birmingham City Council Leader, Councillor Sir Albert Bore, announced that it was his intention to “accelerate the city’s house building target of 70,000 by 2026.”
Such an announcement seems at first glance very laudable and the local media have simply reported it verbatim. But a little bit digging by my colleague, Councillor Jerry Evans (Lib Dem, Springfield Ward) has revealed that this new target could have disastrous consequences for our city. It will potentially mean the following happens:
- the removal of Mature Suburbs planning policy that stops developers building housing estates in large back gardens. This planning policy is particularly important in areas like Moseley, Harborne, Sutton Coldfield, Hall Green and parts of Acocks Green.
- the loss of parts of our parks and some public open spaces
- the lost of part of the Green Belt that surrounds Birmingham
Building more than 43,000 dwellings in Birmingham will lead to the above happening.
How do I know this, you may ask? Simple. The Council has already calculated the impact of different levels of future housing as part the new Birmingham Core Strategy. This document sets the framework around which future planning decisions will be made. If you want to protect the city’s green belt and mature suburbs, then this is the document you need to get that protection into – all developers and planning officers will work to this document up until 2026.
The final draft of the Birmingham Core Strategy prior to public consultation went to Cabinet on 8th November 2010. You can download it from http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy/Pages/AgendaDetail.aspx?AgendaID%3d56875 Download the document called “The Birmingham Plan Emerging Strategy _.pdf”. Go to page 21 of 237, paragraph 1.85.
As you will see from paragraph 1.85, the public were consulted on three options for the increase in home building in Birmingham by 2026. The three options were:
- Option 1 – 50,000 dwellings. Involving continuation of existing policy approaches.
- Option 2 – 55 to 60,000 dwellings. This involved more radical change in areas including the ‘Eastern Corridor’ and more relaxed approach towards the loss of employment land, open space and development in the mature suburbs. It would also involve development of three new suburban centres as the focus for shops, employment and local services
- Option 3 – up to 65,000 dwellings. This would have involved extensions of urban areas (designed Green Belt areas) and expanded urban areas in either the North/North East and/or South of the city.
Following consultation, it was agreed at Cabinet that “Option 3 has, therefore, been dismissed and the Strategy is based on a combination of Options 1 and 2.” – paragraph 4.4 in the covering Cabinet report.
The combination of option 1 and 2 would involve trying to build up to 60,000 dwellings whilst, somehow, protecting our mature suburbs and green belt.
More recent work by Council officers preparing the final version, post public consultation, of the Birmingham Core Strategy shows that once we build above 43,000 dwellings, then the Council would need to abandon its Mature Suburbs policy, plus look at building housing on surround green belt.
Now that Councillor Sir Albert Bore has unilaterally decided that the Birmingham Core Strategy will now in involve building 70,000 houses up to 2026, then Sir Albert needs to answer some simple questions, quickly: where are these houses going to be built? Is he now abandoning the Mature Suburbs policy that protects so many rear gardens? Is he going to build on the Green Belt?
We need to know, before this 70,000 figure is formally adopted in the Birmingham Core Strategy. His announcement was certainly a mad and bad decision.