Solihull Local Plan (Draft Submission) 2020

Ended on the 14th December 2020
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(94) Blythe

The Area Now

  1. For the purposes of this chapter, the Blythe area comprises the parishes of Dickens Heath, Cheswick Green and Tidbury Green, which lie to the south of Shirley and the Stratford Road; and west of the M42.
  2. This area consists of distinct villages set within, and separated by, attractive countryside and Green Belt, which gives each village a sense of remoteness. The landscape is characterised by smaller hedged fields and numerous hedgerow trees of Arden pasture with the River Cole to the west and River Blythe SSSI from the south. Small ponds and pockets of ancient woodland punctuate the landscape. There are no Conservation Areas, but several farmhouses are Grade II listed buildings within a farmland setting.
  3. Tidbury Green comprises predominantly inter-war linear development along key roads. New residential developments at Tidbury Green Farm and Lowbrook Farm are providing a greater mix of housing types and much needed affordable housing to the area. Tidbury Green primary school has been expanded to provide additional capacity for the pupils arising from these new developments. Wythall train station, which has services to Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon, is within walking distance from the centre of the village, but bus services are poor. The south of the Parish borders the popular Earlswood Lakes and Clowes Wood SSSI. There is a train station with limited services at Earlswood, but few amenities. Tidbury Green parish contains 1,130 residents in 432 households.
  4. Cheswick Green is predominantly a planned new village from the 1970s and consists almost entirely of post-war development characterised by cul-de-sac, open plan layouts. There are a number of key local facilities, including a one-form entry primary school, GP surgery, village hall, pub and local shops. Public transport is via the bus service which runs to Shirley and Solihull. It is proposed that the school will be enlarged to two-form entry to accommodate pupils from new housing development at Blythe Valley Park and Mount Dairy Farm, subject to normal statutory processes. The hamlet of Illshaw Heath lies to the south. Cheswick Green has a population of 2,197 residents in 891 households.
  5. The modern, multi-award winning village of Dickens Heath was 'created' in the late 1990s and, guided by an architect-led masterplan. It has since undergone rapid expansion with a variety of architectural styles of development and a village centre. Whilst housing densities are higher around the village centre, the area has an attractive, mature woodland, a Country Park and canalside setting, with a few early cottages adding sporadic visual interest.
  6. The centre has a range of community facilities including a two-form entry primary school, library, GP surgery, shops and services. Due to limited land availability the school does not currently have scope to expand on-site. There is a railway station close to the village at Whitlock's End, which benefits from a car park and three services per hour to Birmingham, however pedestrian and cycling access needs to be improved. Dickens Heath has a population of 3,992 residents in 1,757 households.
  7. Blythe Valley Park comprises a modern campus style commercial development within an attractive parkland setting. There are several award winning signature buildings providing a contemporary and sustainable working environment. Planning permission has been granted for750 homes and a care home at the southern end of the park which will create a new community and increase the diversity of housing types and tenures in the area. Close to Junction 4 of the M42, there is excellent access to the strategic road network, but limited bus services.
  8. As a whole, the villages benefit from some key facilities and Whitlock's End Station has been upgraded with 3 services per hour to Birmingham and Stratford. However, the wider sub-area suffers from poor public transport provision with limited bus services between settlements, which perpetuates travel by private car.

The Area in the Future

  1. The area will be provided with affordable homes and market housing for a range of people such as families, young professionals and those wishing to down-size.
  2. Significant new development at Dickens Heath, Cheswick Green, and Blythe Valley Park will add to the vibrancy and vitality of the settlement, whilst retaining the intrinsic character of distinctive villages separated by open countryside.
  3. New and existing communities will be integrated and benefit from increased infrastructure provision and enhanced access to natural green spaces and the canal network.
  4. Blythe Valley Park will have become a mixed and sustainable community and aspirational place to live, work and play, amplified by its exemplar standard of design and construction and distinctive sense of place. Improvements to local facilities, services and public transport will have been realised, encouraging more sustainable travel patterns and improved connectivity to surrounding communities.
  5. It is recognised that this area of the Borough has a complex pattern of settlements that are located both in close proximity to each other, but also close to the urban edge. Each has its own sense of identity and this is reinforced by maintaining a reasonable separation between each settlement and/or the urban edge. It is important that adequate separation continues to be provided between these settlements to avoid them coalescing. Whilst some development is proposed in this area it does mean that the gaps between settlements that will remain are now more sensitive to change and it is important that they are protected so that they still provide an adequate separating function.

What is Required for the Area in the Future?

  1. Improved Public Transport – A higher population gives greater potential for improved public transport services to be viable, e.g. better frequency of bus services.
  2. Pedestrian and Cycling Connectivity – Cycling and walking links to Whitlock's End station, village centres, local services and Shirley town centre will be improved to facilitate active travel and reduce car dependency, especially for short journeys.
  3. Highway improvements – It is likely that highway improvements will be required at various locations in the settlement, as well as capitalising on highway improvement initiatives along the Stratford Road. These could include speed reduction measures, access and junction improvements around development sites, highway capacity improvements or adjustments to traffic priority arrangements.
  4. Parking Improvements – The provision of appropriate additional off-street parking may be considered in Dickens Heath.
  5. New Primary School – Pupils arising from Site 4 will be accommodated at the recently expanded Tidbury Green Primary school. A new two-form entry primary school, however, will be required to serve Sites 11, 12 and 265. The draft concept masterplans show the school situated on Site 12. Funding for the school will be expected via section 106 agreements associated with the development of the allocated sites.
  6. Health provision – The Council is working with the Clinical Commissioning Group to establish the impact of new development on local GPs and other services, and how this can be addressed.
  7. Sports and Recreation - Replacement of any lost recreation / sports provision as a result of development will be required to an equivalent or better standard, including access and use by the wider community where appropriate. Several sites have been shortlisted in the vicinity of the existing clubs West of Dickens Heath, and an enabling policy for replacement pitches and facilities is incorporated within Policy P20.
  8. Play and Open Space - Provision of play and areas of open space within potential development sites will be required. There is also a need to ensure that best use is made of existing green and blue infrastructure assets within development sites, together with provision for linkages to the surrounding area.
  9. Concept Master Plans – Concept masterplans have been prepared for each of the site allocations proposed in this area, in accordance with planning policy and best practice guidance. The plans that accompany this consultation, for the principal sites, include a draft concept masterplan. They seek to identify the key existing features of a site that may need to be retained, and show at a high level where development is envisaged within the wider site. This is to ensure that when development proposals move to the planning application stage, there is certainty about the important elements of the development, e.g. appropriate green infrastructure and other requirements. Whilst this may result in a lower gross to net developable area, this will demonstrate that a quality development can be provided which makes efficient use of land and respects local character.
  10. Green Belt Enhancements – The revised NPPF makes provision for environmental and/or access improvements to be undertaken to land that is to remain in the Green Belt to compensate for land that is taken up for development. This provides an opportunity for additional accessible open space and green infrastructure, wider access to the countryside, as well as maximising biodiversity net gain. These enhancements will be situated particularly in the area south of the existing urban edge and between the new urban extensions and the rural settlements (Dickens Heath & Cheswick Green).
  11. Community Infrastructure Levy – Presently the parish councils will directly receive 15% of the levy collected in the area. This will increase to 25% once any Neighbourhood Plans are adopted. This will provide a significant source of funding that can be used to take forward appropriate projects that the community have identified as priorities. This can include simple relatively low cost actions (e.g. further traffic regulation orders) through to more substantial projects. It will be for the parish councils to decide how this 'local' element of the CIL receipts is to be spent and there is potential for partnership working to maximise the use of monies from this source.
  12. Affordable Housing – Affordable housing will be required on development sites in accordance with adopted planning policy.

Proposed Approach

  1. Given that the opportunities to develop on previously developed land in Blythe are extremely limited, Green Belt release will be required and a redefined Green Belt boundary will need to be established. In accordance with national planning policy, such boundaries should be defined clearly, using physical features that are readily recognisable and likely to be permanent. Sites that are close to the existing settlement or are / can be well-served by public transport will be preferable, subject to their performance against the purposes of including land Green Belt as supported in the Green Belt assessment and any other evidence base and constraints.
  2. A mix of market and affordable housing, as well as smaller market homes for young people wishing to remain in the area and specialist housing to meet the needs of older people will be provided in the area. This will seek to align the types and sizes of homes to be made available and the needs of the community. However, there will need to be a careful balance struck between making the most efficient use of land and respecting the character of the local area.
  3. It is important that sites are considered in a comprehensive manner to avoid piecemeal developments occurring. This needn't necessarily preclude a phased approach where one parcel of land or part of a site may be available for development in advance of another, but this should be in accordance with an approach agreed by the Council.

Proposed Allocations

(155) Policy BL1 - West of Dickens Heath

  1. The site is allocated for 350 dwellings.
  2. Development of the site should be broadly consistent with the principles as shown in the concept masterplan below, which include:
    1. A pedestrian link north of the hedgerow along Tythe Barn Lane is proposed in order to provide a safe route to Whitlocks End Station. Likewise opportunities to connect to the public footpath over the Stratford Canal are promoted.
    2. Connection to proposed Dickens Heath to Solihull town centre cycle route.
    3. Provision of 2.3ha of public open space, including children's play.
    4. Relocation of the existing sports provision south of Tythe Barn Lane to a suitable site in the vicinity;
    5. Retention of Local Wildlife Sites, with potential for enhancement and appropriate buffer to Tythe Barn Coppice ancient woodland.
    6. Retention of trees and hedgerows within the site and along Tythe Barn Lane to conserve the character of this approach into Dickens Heath;
    7. Provision of suitable SuDS and flood risk management;
    8. On site accommodation for older people in accordance with Policy P4E
    9. 5% of open market dwellings to be provided in the form of Self and Custom Build Plots in accordance with Policy 4D
  3. Likely infrastructure requirements will include:
    1. Financial contribution to education provision as required by the Local Education Authority;
    2. Developer contributions to primary care health services in the vicinity and appropriate UHB secondary care services in the wider CCG.
    3. Relocation of the existing sports provision;
    4. Highway improvements as required including speed reduction measures and access improvements along Tilehouse Lane and Tythe Barn Lane.
    5. Provision of above ground SuDS features and deculverting of existing watercourse through site where feasible.
    6. Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Dickens Heath, Whitlocks End Station and the Stratford upon Avon Canal towpath in accordance with the Council's LCWIP.
  4. Green Belt enhancements will include:
    1. Enhancement of public right of way towards canal towpath.
    2. Positive management of Local Wildlife sites
    3. Replacement sports provision with enhanced facilities
  5. To support sustainable development within the area, the site should be promoted in a comprehensive basis supporting the positively planned relocation of the existing sports facilities south of Tythe Barn Lane to alternative locations within the surrounding area. Until such time as these facilities are appropriately relocated or robust plans have been confirmed to secure a timely relocation that would prevent the closure of any associated clubs (either for a short period of time or permanently), development of the site will not be supported.
  6. The Concept Masterplan document should be read alongside this policy. Whilst the concept masterplans may be subject to change in light of further work that may need to be carried out at the planning application stage, any significant departure from the principles outlined for Site 4 will need to be justified and demonstrate that the overall objectives for the site and its wider context are not compromised.

Justification

  1. This allocation comprises two parcels of land to the west of the existing village. The smaller parcel extends along the north of Tythe Barn Lane and bounded by the Stratford-upon-Avon canal to the north, and hedgerow to the west. The larger site is bounded by Tilehouse Lane to the west, Tythe Barn Lane to the north and Birchy Leasowes Lane to the south.
  2. The smaller northern site is an existing arable field with few constraints. Views onto and access to the Stratford-upon-Avon canal will be enhanced, whilst retaining its important function as a wildlife corridor and key piece of green infrastructure.
  3. The larger site is currently occupied by Highgate United FC, Leafield FC and Old Yardleians Rugby Football Club, and re-provision will be required for these sports pitches. Tythe Barn Meadows Local Wildlife Site (LWS) to the west will be retained, as will the integrity of Little Tyburn Coppice, a remnant ancient woodland. Tyburn Farm pastures have been confirmed as a LWS as part of the Local Plan Review process, it is the area north of Tythe Lane running up to the canal. The LWSs are expected to impact upon the ability to re-provide the playing fields within the site and therefore alternative options for their re-provision is being pursued. Development proposals could include options that sees the retention of the existing garden centre, or it could be redeveloped to provide residential accommodation.
  4. The sites are opportunely located in very close proximity to Whitlock's End Station, which has 3 train services per hour to the centre of Birmingham with a short journey time of 20 minutes. Furthermore, local services and shops in Dickens Heath village centre will be easily accessible by foot or bicycle, and it is important that convenient links are provided.
  5. The Landscape Assessment (2016) states that the Blythe area has medium landscape value but high overall sensitivity to new development. As such, the concept masterplan proposes to retain historic landscape features, such as hedgerows and standard trees, and the meadows and woodland designated as Local Wildlife Sites.
  6. Highway improvements will be required to the surrounding roads, and a pedestrian/cycling link north of the hedgerow along Tythe Barn Lane is proposed to provide a safe route to Whitlocks End Station.

(101) Policy BL2 - South of Dog Kennel Lane

  1. The site is allocated for 1,000 dwellings
  2. Development of the site should be broadly consistent with the principles as shown in the concept masterplan below, which include:
    1. Respecting the setting of the Grade II Listed Light Hall Farm. Development should be set back from the immediate locality to avoid harm. Only if harm cannot be avoided should mitigation be considered, and then it should be fully justified and demonstrated to be successful in reducing harm;
    2. Provision of 8.2ha of public open space and a range of play areas for children and young people.
    3. Multi-modal access routes from Dog Kennel Lane that respond to those already established at the development at the Green.
    4. Enhancement of bridleway access from Cheswick Green through the site as a pedestrian route and key green infrastructure link.
    5. Trees and hedgerows along Dog Kennel Lane should be retained to protect the character of the highway.
    6. On site accommodation for older people in accordance with Policy P4E
    7. 5% of open market dwellings to be provided in the form of Self and Custom Build Plots in accordance with Policy 4D
  3. Likely infrastructure requirements will include:
    1. New 2-form primary school and early years;
    2. Developer contributions to primary care health services in the vicinity and appropriate UHB secondary care services in the wider CCG catchment.
    3. Flood alleviation measures in the form of above ground SUDs features and potential betterment for the Mount Brook tributary of the River Blythe;
    4. Highway improvements as required including and access improvements along Dog Kennel lane.
    5. Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including bus services improvements and pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Dickens Heath, the Stratford Road and Shirley Town Centre, in accordance with the Council's LCWIP.
  4. Green Belt enhancements will include:
    1. Country Park to south of development extending to edge of Cheswick Green. Will provide greater access to the countryside, green infrastructure provision and opportunities to maximise biodiversity net gain.
  5. The Concept Masterplans document should be read alongside this policy. Whilst the concept masterplan may be subject to change in light of further work that may need to be carried out at the planning application stage, any significant departure from the principles outlined for Site 12 will need to be justified and demonstrate that the overall objectives for the site and its wider context are not compromised.

Justification

  1. The site extends south of Dog Kennel Lane from Dickens Heath Road to the fields east of Creynolds Lane. Site BL2 is within a parcel of moderately performing Green Belt, and given the existing field structure, does not have a clear contiguous defensible Green Belt boundary to the south. To address this, the detailed design of the resulting development will be expected to utilise internal estate roads to form the new Green Belt boundary. This will be achieved by an estate road being provided on the southern (outer) edge of the development with dwellings only on its northern side. This will have the result that the new development fronts onto the open space/Green Belt rather than back gardens.
  2. As with Site BL1, the concept masterplan proposes to retain historic landscape features, such as hedgerows, standard trees and ponds. Any development around the Grade II listed building will be sensitive to its historic setting. There will be legible and accessible pedestrian and cycling links going north to redevelopment of The Green, and west towards Shirley town centre, and south towards the Country Park. New development will avoid Flood Zones 2 and 3, and betterment will be sought where possible to alleviate flood risk downstream.
  3. The concept masterplans propose situating a new primary school in the heart of Site BL2, to reduce journey times for pupils from Site BL2 and potentially The Green.

(44) Policy BL3 - Whitlock's End Farm

  1. The site is allocated for 300 dwellings
  2. Development of the site should be broadly consistent with the principles as shown in the concept masterplan below, which include:
    1. Respecting the setting of the Grade II Whitlocks End Farm.
    2. Provision of 2.3 ha of public open space and a range of play areas for children and young people.
    3. Enhancement of public rights of way through the site as a pedestrian route and key green infrastructure link.
    4. Trees and hedgerows along bridleway and public rights of way to be retained.
    5. On site accommodation for older people in accordance with Policy P4E.
    6. 5% of open market dwellings to be provided in the form of Self and Custom Build Plots in accordance with Policy 4D.
  3. Likely infrastructure requirements will include:
    1. Developer contributions to new 2-form primary school and early years provision at Site BL2;
    2. Developer contributions to primary care health services in the vicinity and appropriate UHB secondary care services in the wider CCG catchment.
    3. Provision of above ground SuDS features
    4. Avoidance of flood risk areas to north –west of site and potential for flood alleviation measures to benefit the wider area;
    5. Highway improvements as required including access improvements on Bills Lane.
    6. Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including improvement of bus services and pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Shirley railway station, the Stratford Road and Shirley Town Centre in accordance with the Council's LCWIP.
  4. Green Belt enhancements will include:
    1. Public open space in the wider site and accessibility and green infrastructure connections to the Local Green Space located to east as designated under Policy P20.
  5. The Concept Masterplans document should be read alongside this policy. Whilst the concept masterplan may be subject to change in light of further work that may need to be carried out at the planning application stage, any significant departure from the principles outlined for Site 26 will need to be justified and demonstrate that the overall objectives for the site and its wider context are not compromised.

Justification

  1. Site BL3 will extend towards the western edge of the Borough where the boundary is marked by the Stratford railway line, and being on an embankment at this point the rail line itself will help provide visual separation between the new development and the built up area of Major's Green to the west (which is in Bromsgrove District).
  2. The site is located within easy walking distance of Shirley station, and is accessible to Shirley Town centre by walking and cycling.
  3. Site BL3 provides for a narrower front of the amended Green Belt boundary where only the minimum separation between the urban edge and Dickens Heath is provided (by shifting development to the west thus being 'off set' from the built up area of Dickens Heath). Furthermore it avoids further development in the gap between the urban edge and Dickens Heath along Dickens Heath Road which is the principal route south from the urban edge to the village – as such this is where the perception of the gap should be at its greatest.
  4. The land to the east of the site, formerly proposed as allocation 'Site 13', is now being proposed as Local Green Space for the existing communities in South Shirley (and the new community at Site BL3) and will be a location for woodland tree planting.
  5. Although this site now includes land in a Green Belt parcel that scores highly, it is considered that this represents a trade off with the higher accessibility of the site being located on the urban edge close to where need arises.
  6. Most forms of development in this area will reduce the gap between the urban edge and Dickens Heath. This will be reduced to approximately 300m (from 600m) and this should be seen as the minimum necessary to provide a meaningful gap provided it only occurs over a narrow front (i.e. just a pinch point) rather than over a broad front that simply results in a uniform corridor like gap between the urban edge and Dickens Heath.
  7. Pursuing an urban extension in this from is expected to result in the following advantages over site 13 as proposed in the DLP:
  8. Site BL3 provides for a narrower front where only the minimum separation between the urban edge and Dickens Heath is provided (by shifting more of the development to the west thus being 'off set' from the built up area of Dickens Heath). Furthermore it avoids further development in the gap between the urban edge and Dickens Heath along Dickens Heath Road which is the principal route south from the urban edge to the village – as such this is where the perception of the gap should be at its greatest.
  9. Development under site BL3 would also allow the retention of more land as open and accessible space south of Woodloes Road, so that it can connect with open countryside further south. This could form part of the Green Belt compensation enhancements in that access improvements and habitat creation in this area would help offset the loss of Green Belt to the west.
  10. Shifting the focus of vehicular traffic movements away from the congested Dickens Heath Road to Bills Lane/Haslucks Green Road.
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