Issue - decisions
Core Strategy Local Plan - Review of Development Options
01/03/2017 - Core Strategy Local Plan - Report of Further Consultation on Housing Need and Land Supply
Councillor Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council, said:
“Last week the Government announced its long awaited Housing White Paper. The headlines revealed plans to build 1,000,000 new homes by 2020.
“While this White Paper recognises the failure to build sufficient homes in the past has directly led to the current housing crisis, the policy does little to address the root causes of homelessness or the growing affordability and availability gaps especially for younger people and the needs of an ageing population.
“The Government's Top-Down House Building Target also puts pressure on our Green Belt. To meet the target, each local authority has to submit a Local Plan identifying how many and where new homes will be built. Wirral’s housing needs assessment has been set at a minimum of 900 new homes every year for the next 15 years - 13,500 in total.
“The assessment also tells us we do not have enough land in Wirral currently allocated for housing to meet this target.
The Council therefore must review the options available to it.
“We will review land currently identified for employment and explore regenerating other previously undeveloped urban sites; look at increasing housing densities; bringing empty properties back into use; and making landowners and developers such as Peel - owners of Wirral Waters - commence building the homes they have extant planning permission for.
It is a requirement of the statutory Local Plan process that all options are reviewed including the Green Belt to meet these house building targets.
“Failing to explore all options, including Green Belt, or not submitting a Local Plan by March 2018 carries potential sanctions from Government.
“Not submitting a Local Plan also prevents local authorities from exercising proper planning control and leaves the Green Belt unprotected from speculative bids from builders and developers.
“Let me be clear, this Council will seek to meet its obligations and provide the homes needed to meet our economic growth ambitions; improve the quality of housing on offer for residents; and meet the needs of our most vulnerable people to enable them to live independently.
“We will achieve this by identifying all possibleoptions for building new homes on existing sites and development locations. This administration is committed to not building on Wirral’s Green Belt.
“I have written to the Secretary of State asking him to reconsider his policies and instead provide local authorities with the resources to manage house building in the interest of residents not Government targets.
“Public consultation will commence in March 2017 and I encourage everyone to contribute ideas on these important issues which will affect us all.”
Councillor Phil Davies introduced a report which set out the results of consultation with the public and other stakeholders on the scale of the future need for housing and on the land that would be available to accommodate it.
Councillor Davies informed that the results of consultation had not identified any significant additional development opportunities to meet the likely identified need for new housing, over and above the sites already included in the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, the report recommended that officers be authorised to undertake and consult upon a wider review of potential development options, that would not, at this stage, commit the Council to any future land releases but would enable it to more precisely determine the environmental and other constraints that may apply to any future development sites, including land in the Green Belt designated in the Council’s existing Unitary Development Plan.
Councillor Davies also informed that further consultation on a wider range of potential development options would also enable the Council to demonstrate that the full range of available alternatives had been properly considered, in line with the requirements of national policy and legislation, before any final decision is taken on the content of the Borough’s Core Strategy Local Plan.
The Cabinet noted that the decision to assess a wider range of potential development options was a procedural requirement and was not a key decision, as any key decision would not be taken until after the necessary information had been prepared and consulted upon, through the consideration of a further report to the Cabinet at a later date.
The recommendations contained in the report, if approved, could support the delivery of the Wirral Plan pledge for good quality housing which met the needs of residents; and Wirral Plan Housing Strategy objectives to build more homes to meet the Council’s economic growth ambitions and improve the quality of the housing offer for Wirral’s residents.
The recommendations could also support the delivery of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy and an increase in income through New Homes Bonus and Council Tax.
Appended to the report were:
· Appendix 1 - The Summary of the Consultation Findings
· Appendix 2 – Report of Consultation
· Appendix 3 – Plans of New Sites Submitted
· Appendix 4 – Plans of Amended Sites Submitted
· Appendix 5 – Plans of Other New Sites Submitted
Councillor Davies referred to the country’s housing crisis that had come about because not enough houses etc. had been built to meet people’s needs. Consequently, the Government had announced that it aimed to build 1 million new homes over the next five years. The Council must demonstrate how it would hit its target of building nearly 1000 new homes each year over the next five years.
Councillor Davies considered this to be an aggressive top down housing target which was putting undue pressure on Wirral’s green belt. He considered that the Government should allow local authorities to set their own housing targets against local circumstances e.g. 45% of the peninsula was made up of green belt land. Consequently, Councillor Davies had written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking him to reconsider his policies and instead provide local authorities with the resources to manage house building in the interest of residents not Government targets as ‘the green belt is the jewel in Wirral’s crown and greatly valued by our residents’.
Councillor Davies informed that the Council required a robust Local Plan to target land for housing. Developers had to identify exceptional circumstances to be allowed to build in the green belt. Councillor Matthew Patrick referred to the undue strain and pressure on the green belt. He informed that if the Council did not explore all of its options, including the green belt, the Government would open up the entire Borough for speculative developments.
Councillor Ann McLachlan referred to planning permission had already been granted to build 18,500 units of housing on Wirral and informed that Peel Holdings had planning permission for 13,500 of these. She considered that they should be put under pressure to start building. Councillor McLachlan was also of the view that the Leader should write to the Secretary of State to ask him to take account of small Boroughs such as Wirral, where a high proportion of land is in the green belt.
(1) the results of further consultation on the Borough’s housing needs and land supply be noted;
(2) the information arising from the consultation set out in the Appendices to the report be used to inform the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment for April 2017;
(3) the Objectively Assessed Need for housing and employment be not determined until the Liverpool City Region Strategic Housing and Employment Land Market Assessment (SHELMA) has been completed and approved;
(4) the future designation of existing employment land be not determined until the Employment Land and Premises Study Update has been completed and approved;
(5) the future designation of existing open spaces be not determined until the Playing Pitch Strategy has been completed and approved;
(6) the Assistant Director for Environmental Services be authorised to consult the public and other stakeholders on a wider review of potential development options;
(7) the results of consultation on that wider review be reported to the Cabinet before the content of the Draft Core Strategy Local Plan is finalised for submission to the Secretary of State; and
(8) the Leader of the Council be requested to write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking for powers for local authorities to be able to set their own housing targets against local circumstances.
Councillors George Davies, Bernie Mooney and Stuart Whittingham returned to the meeting.