Express & Star

Changes proposed for future development in South Staffordshire including 6,000 less new homes

Major changes to a blueprint for future development in South Staffordshire are set to include around 6,000 fewer new homes and far less reliance on using Green Belt land.

Last updated

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276

The previous version of the new Local Plan, which went out to consultation in late 2022, was put on hold as a result of a national shake-up of planning policy.

Alongside a target to provide thousands of new homes to meet the future needs of the district, it included an additional 4,000 to contribute to the unmet need of the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area.

Significant release of land currently protected under Green Belt status was proposed in order to meet this housing need.

But the day before the 2022 consultation was due to end, the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) published a consultation on a revised National Planning Policy Framework.

This included major changes to Green Belt policy, which set out that Green Belt boundaries would not need to be reviewed if this was the only way of meeting housing needs.

Work on South Staffordshire’s new Local Plan resumed last year and a revised plan has now come forward, which covers the coming years up to 2041.

The contribution towards unmet housing needs in the wider area has now been cut from 4,000 to 640 homes, while use of Green Belt land has been limited to “only suitable sites at the district’s settlements with greatest access to services and facilities and within walking distance of a train station.

At the latest full council meeting members agreed for the latest version of the plan to go out for a six week public consultation, which is due to begin on April 15.

South Staffordshire Council intends to submit it to the Secretary of State for examination next year.

The council’s deputy leader Victoria Wilson said: “As a local planning authority, South Staffordshire Council has a duty to plan for sites within the district, taking into account many different planning considerations.

"These considerations are things such as accessibility, sustainability, harm to the Green Belt and other matters which members will be aware.

“In autumn 2022 this council consulted on a publication plan it had been working on since 2018. That plan was paused in early 2023 and the plan brought to members today supersedes that plan.

“The plan before you reflects the changes in Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which was finally published in December 2023. This plan represents the requirements of national policy, in the best interests of South Staffordshire.

“We have made changes to our Local Plan proposals. Due to the passing of time, the plan period has had to be extended and there are now no requirements for Green Belt boundaries to be changed unless these changes include exceptional circumstances.

“This council has been able to alter its dwelling figures – not completely avoiding Green Belt release but limiting that release to suitable sites within ‘tier one’ settlements, which are those with greatest access to services and facilities. The number was approximately 10,000 homes and will now be 4,086 homes in total; it will also seek to maximise all suitable non-Green Belt sites in order to deliver our housing target.”

Councillor Wilson added that in terms of land for employment space, the authority had updated its economic needs assessment and was able to provide a sufficient contribution for both the district’s needs and a contribution to requirements for the Black Country. The allocations now include land at junction 13 of the M6, north of Penkridge.

The plan also allocates 37 new pitches for gypsy and traveller communities, although a need of 162 by 2041 has been identified.

Councillor Wilson said: “Despite an increased need, the allocation of 37 remains in this plan alongside a pragmatic policy to best help address the shortfall – this is despite an incredible amount of work by the team, both seeking sites within our own district and also exploring sources of supply from neighbouring councils, and this work is ongoing.”

Council leader Roger Lees urged fellow members to back the plan. He said: “I would like to endorse the urgent need for a plan to be put in place.

“This is to stop preventative speculation by developers. Please support this plan, otherwise we’re leaving ourselves wide open for further development.”

Councillor Fiona Hopkins raised concerns about the number of homes being proposed for the Bilbrook area however. She said: “We have already had 167 houses and proposing at least 750 more – you are looking at adding maybe 2,500 people to the population.

“There is a lot of talk in this plan about sustainability, about it being linked to the train station and buses. But at the moment we’ve got one bus an hour, one train an hour and those aren’t reliable.

“We have got waiting lists for the doctors and dentist, we have got roads that aren’t being properly maintained. At what point in the planning process are the resources put in to make those sustainable?”

Councillor Paul Harrison said: “What the council is being asked to do is consent for this to go out to consultation for the process to proceed. I’m very cognoscente of the point that if we don’t go on and get a plan in place then we could be in for a bit of a free for all from the point of planning, so it is very important.

“However, it is also important that members of the public are aware we are not voting at this point on accepting the plan. That will only come after the plan has gone through the inspection process.”