Planning Consultancy First City Limited has called for further flexibility in housing distribution within the Districts adjoining the Black Country.
This is supported by Graham Fergus who leads the company’s planning team who says- ‘evidence in the emerging updates to the Strategic Housing Land Availability studies identifies numerous settlements in the villages and small towns just outside of the West Midlands Major Urban Areas (MUA’s) – the main built up areas of Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley which are considered potentially suitable for more growth than may be supported with the rigid MUA/non MUA approach in the past.
In addition the Sustainability Appraisal for the approved Black Country Core Strategy (BCJCS) whilst favouring a strategy of urban concentration does not identify significant sustainability problems with higher levels of growth outside of the MUAs.
Graham added “The Localism Bill will abolish the West Midlands Regional Strategy (RSS) when it becomes law and notwithstanding the coalition government’s consistent statements and emerging policies regarding the importance of housing delivery, they have also been consistent in indicating that the locations where individual councils can choose to provide land for housing will be largely up to them.”
First City is not calling for a wholesale abandonment of the Green Belt to the north and west of the conurbation, far from it, we are arguing that there is substantial technical evidence indicating the availability of land in sustainable locations outside of the MUA. For example, the emerging South Staffordshire Core Strategy whilst protecting the areas of greatest threat to the Green Belt should combine this approach with more flexibility than allowed for by the RSS for individual councils to direct proportionate levels of new housing and employment growth to settlements elsewhere within their area.
This approach will allow the flexibility to provide the best prospect of ensuring a 5 and 15 year supply of housing land as required by Planning Policy Statement 3 ‘Housing’ and will ensure councils can take decisions to direct appropriate growth to settlements that may, for example, be in need of further investment on regeneration grounds or in order to provide much needed support for local facilities. As well as being in line with the Government’s ‘Localism’ approach to making decisions, providing a broader spread of housing locations may well also assist in speeding up the rate of housing delivery overall.
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