Solihull Local Plan (Draft Submission) 2020

Ended on the 14th December 2020
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(10) Introduction

  1. At the heart of planning is the need to plan positively for sustainable development. One of the principal ways this is achieved is by having a local plan to guide the development of an area. Having a local plan is key to delivering sustainable development that reflects the vision and aspirations of local communities. The aim is that local authorities should positively seek opportunities, through their local plan, to meet the development needs of their area. The Council's local plan addresses the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change that is happening to the Borough, both now and in the future.
  2. The current local plan, the "Solihull Local Plan" (SLP), was adopted in December 2013 and covers the period 2011 to 2028. Although it is a recently adopted plan, and is up-to-date in many respects, there are three reasons that have triggered the need for an early review of it. The first is to deal with the legal challenge to the 2013 plan; secondly to accommodate Solihull's own housing needs, as well as helping to address the housing shortfall occurring in the wider Housing Market Area (HMA); and finally to provide a proper planning framework that recognises the arrival of HS2 in the Borough – in particular the first station outside of London which is to be constructed on land opposite the NEC.
  3. The latter is particularly important as it provides a unique opportunity for the Borough to capitalise on maximising the potential HS2 has, and recognising the part it has in contributing towards creating one of the most connected places in the country. A place where international air travel, high speed rail, and conventional rail all come together at a location well served by the national motorway network and local connections.
  4. Two thirds of the Borough is located in the Green Belt, and this includes the strategically important Meriden Gap that separates Solihull and the Birmingham conurbation from the city of Coventry. This plan seeks to protect this important feature that makes Solihull special whilst accommodating, in a managed way, the growth that is needed.

Climate Change

  1. Although the reasons noted above triggered the need to review the plan, it is also clear that a new plan provides an ideal opportunity to ensure the Council's approach to planning matches its ambitions in responding to the climate change challenge. In recognition of the gravity of the climate change emergency the Council adopted a 'Climate Change Declaration' in October 2019. Action on many fronts is needed to address this challenge and through this plan the Council will set, in a statutory framework, those aspects of the declaration's actions that can be addressed through the planning system. As the declaration states "there needs to be a just transition for our residents and for business, taking them with us, so as to protect employment and avoid adverse effects on our people, our economy and our communities."

Covid-19

  1. This introduction would not be complete without reference to the Covid-19 crisis of 2020. Its effects have been devastating and the long term effects of it are still not clear. But what is clear is that the Borough must create the right conditions for the recovery and having an adopted plan in place will play a key part in this.

How Could it Affect Me?

  1. The local plan as a whole sets out the future spatial strategy for the Borough and includes the allocation of sites to promote development. It also identifies land where development would be inappropriate because of its impact on, for instance, environmental or historic assets; and it also incorporates a strategy for enhancing the natural, built and historic environment.

What will happen if we don't identify enough land for new development?

  1. National planning policy is that the supply of land for housing should be significantly boosted, and without an adequate supply of land for new dwellings, access to the homes that we all need becomes ever more difficult. Equally, land for commercial needs has to be managed to ensure that both existing businesses can flourish whilst also providing an opportunity to attract new business into the Borough. Of course, we also need to recognise the special place that Solihull is, and this plan seeks to ensure that the right balance is achieved between providing land for new development and protecting what makes Solihull special.
  2. If the Council does not have an appropriate plan in place, it will be unable to demonstrate a '5 year land supply' and this could mean that policies in the 2013 plan would be considered out-of-date and lead to less influence over the impact, including through inappropriate design, that some developments may have. This increases the Borough's vulnerability to speculative development proposals, and would lead to development and growth taking place in an unplanned manner, placing additional pressure on infrastructure without guaranteeing or planning positively for measures that can mitigate the impacts. In addition, the Secretary of State could intervene in the Council's plan making powers thus taking away local choice about where development should be accommodated.

Background

  1. This plan has been developed through a series of stages which started with a scope, issues and options consultation in November 2015; and further consultations on draft versions of a plan in November 2016 and January 2019. These earlier stages, and the evidence base prepared to support this plan, can be found on the Council's website at www.solihull.gov.uk/lpr.

Relationship to Other Plans

  1. This plan largely replaces the Solihull Local Plan (Dec 2013), and most of its policies will no longer carry any weight. The only exceptions are the site allocations from the 2013 plan which remain to be bought forward. These are referenced in the policy/settlement chapters.
  2. The Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) was adopted in December 2014 and co-existed with the SLP. Alongside Policy P6, this DPD will continue to be used to provide a framework for determining relevant applications under this plan.
  3. There are now three neighbourhood development plans that have been 'made', and they formed part of the development plan for the Borough before this plan was adopted. Others that come forward will need to reflect the strategic policies of this plan.
  4. The Council places great importance on neighbourhood plans and recognises the substantial efforts that communities have made in bringing forward plans. In the context that this plan provides a number of policies that include Borough wide standards or expectations, there may be occasions when existing neighbourhood plans (particularly if they are up to date and reflect current evidence) provide a more appropriate local expression of a standard or expectation that should be taken into account and given due weight.
  5. The local authority will continue to work with neighbourhood groups and parish councils to support the ongoing delivery of new neighbourhood plans and the update of existing plans as appropriate and in accordance with national guidance.
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