Monthly Archives: November 2016

Go-ahead for ambitious homes and jobs plan

Langley-Sketch

The Birmingham Development Plan (BDP) setting out a 15-year strategy to deliver thousands of new homes and jobs can be formally adopted and approved by Birmingham City Council, the Government has confirmed.

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell lifted a Holding Direction which prevented the BDP from progressing pending further investigation into proposals to earmark land in the Sutton Coldfield green belt for housing and employment purposes.

Mr Barwell said he agreed the scale of unmet housing demand in Birmingham was “exceptional and possibly unique”. The Housing Minister said he saw no reason to disagree with the conclusions an Inspector appointed to consider the plan reached that the BDP was consistent with National Planning Policy and should be adopted.

The BDP sets out proposals to address the city’s housing crisis by building 51,000 homes in Birmingham, including up to 6,000 at Langley in Sutton Coldfield.

Birmingham City Council has promised that the new homes will be supported by exemplar infrastructure and facilities and the development will achieve the highest standards of design and sustainability, and be integrated into the existing community.

The green belt land was identified following a thorough city-wide search to identify possible locations for new homes on previously developed land, known as brownfield sites.

All brownfield land in Birmingham with potential for housing development was considered through the city council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to see whether sites were suitable for housing, how much they could accommodate, and when development was likely to take place.

Research by the council concluded that 89,000 new homes are required over the next 15 years to address an acute housing shortage and meet the needs of Birmingham’s growing population.

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Councillor John Clancy, the Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This is excellent news because it means we can now get on with the vital task of building homes and delivering the jobs that our fast-growing population so desperately needs.

“This is an ambitious plan for growth which will deliver 51,100 new homes and significant new employment opportunities. It is an important step forward that, having reviewed the robustness of Plan, the Government has supported the conclusions of the Planning Inspector and recognised the need to release Green Belt to help meet our housing and employment land needs.”

Waheed Nazir, Strategic Director of Economy at Birmingham City Council, said: “Removing the Holding Direction is an important decision both for the city and the wider UK in terms of our ability to deliver housing growth. We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s endorsement of the Plan and recognition we have taken a robust approach that is consistent with national policy”.

The BDP is expected to be formally adopted by Birmingham City Council early next year.

Chancellor’s Autumn Statement raises more questions than answers

I’ve made it clear that Birmingham and the West Midlands face a housing crisis. Private developers aren’t building quickly enough even though thousands of vacant sites have planning permission.

The Autumn Statement was an opportunity for the Government to live up to promises to make housing a priority. Unfortunately, the Chancellor blew his chance.

Mr Hammond’s pledge to deliver 100,000 new homes across the country by 2021 through a housing infrastructure fund is welcome as far as it goes. The problem is it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

In Birmingham alone the city council must build 90,000 new homes over the next 15 years to meet demand. The Chancellor’s infrastructure fund will not be able to deliver at the level needed by this city, so I will continue my efforts to bring in shovel-ready capital to build the homes that a young and growing Birmingham population needs. Relying on Westminster and City of London banks and finance to deliver isn’t now an option. We have to do this ourselves to make it work.

The Chancellor’s commitment to devolution is welcome, in particular his announcement that the Government will continue discussions with Birmingham and the West Midlands about a second devolution deal on top of the £8bn agreement reached last year.

As always with Autumn Statements, the devil will be in the detail, but on the face of it a commitment to grant borrowing powers to the incoming West Midlands metro mayor and the combined authority will go some way to delivering much-needed transport infrastructure projects, although I was disappointed not to hear details of metro mayor bond schemes.

One thing that the Chancellor did not mention, ominously, was the social care funding crisis facing Birmingham and all large councils. In fact, the Autumn Statement had not a single word of hope for older citizens who are trapped in hospitals because the social care sector is in crisis and cannot cope with an ageing population.

We will have to wait to see whether Mr Hammond’s promises of investment, such as they are, will be delivered by the Government. One thing is certain though: Birmingham City Council is facing the toughest of budget decisions as we balance the books against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts in Government grant. We have had to reduce spending by about £500m since 2010 and expect to have to find a further £250m by 2020.

Citizens should be under no illusion. Public services are under pressure as never before. The Autumn Statement will do little immediately to address Birmingham council’s financial and housing challenges.

We were warned that there would be no rabbits pulled from the chancellor’s hat. There certainly weren’t. In fact it was a dog that didn’t bark statement. The Chancellor could have said so much, but did not or could not.

The victims of the pub bombings will never be forgotten by Birmingham

Statement from the three party leaders at Birmingham City Council: Cllr John Clancy, Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Jon Hunt.

“The horrific events of 21 November 1974 cast a long shadow in Birmingham as our city came under attack. The victims of the bombings were sons and daughters of our city and our region, tragically cut down on that horrific night.

“As a mark of respect we are now beginning the process of posthumously awarding the Freedom of the City to the 21 innocent victims of the bombings at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town. They will never be forgotten.”