Solihull Local Plan (Draft Submission) 2020

Ended on the 14th December 2020
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(43) Knowle, Dorridge & Bentley Heath

The Settlement Now

  1. Lying around 3 miles south east of Solihull Town Centre, Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath (KDBH) is the Borough's largest rural settlement with a combined population of around 19,800 in some 8,000 households. It is inset in the Green Belt which separates it from the main urban area of Solihull and the surrounding rural villages.
  2. Whilst Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath are essentially three villages, the significant post-war development in the area means that they are now physically and functionally linked such that they form one built up area. It is not obvious where one village ends and another one begins and there are strong links between each community as they share many local services and facilities. However, each village has its own shopping provision, park, primary school, community/village hall and churches which help to underpin the sense of individual village identity.
  3. The historic medieval core of Knowle is centred on the High Street and the church of St. John the Baptist, St. Lawrence and St. Anne, at the junction of two historic routes. This area is protected by Conservation Area designation and includes 53 statutory listed buildings and a number of locally listed assets. Knowle has a thriving and well used local centre with an extensive range of shops, facilities and services.
  4. Similarly, development from the later Victorian and Edwardian periods around and near to Dorridge railway station (Station Approach and Granville Road) also benefit from Conservation Area status. The dated shopping parade in Dorridge has been redeveloped to provide up-dated modern facilities and a new public realm that enhances the centre as a whole. It includes food and drink outlets, small business, shops and services.
  5. Bentley Heath has a smaller range of shops and services providing more for the day to day convenience needs of residents.
  6. Overall, the settlement benefits from an attractive residential environment with leafy green streets, access to a number of parks, open spaces and green spaces within the area, and links to the countryside beyond. Green and blue infrastructure is a valuable attribute, with local wildlife sites and local nature reserves, as well as the canal which provides an important environmental and recreational feature.
  7. KDBH is served by four primary schools (including a Catholic primary school) and the Arden Academy and Sixth Form Centre secondary school which has a current capacity of around 1,850 pupils. However, the recent housing developments in the area along with a fluctuating birth rate, is creating pressure on primary school places.
  8. The area is valued by residents for the wide range of community services and facilities that are enjoyed and used extensively. These include Knowle Library, Knowle and Dorridge scout huts, sports and recreation facilities, local allotments and commercial premises such as post offices, chemists and public houses that are a vital part of village life. The settlement is also well served in terms of health facilities with 3 GP surgeries and 5 dental surgeries.
  9. The settlement as a whole has a high proportion of detached dwellings and low density residential development is a characteristic of some parts of the settlement. House prices are amongst the most expensive in the Borough and affordability continues to be an issue for those seeking access to housing, as does the need to provide a more appropriate range of housing types and sizes to meet future needs.
  10. The area has good links to key employment sites at Blythe Valley Park and Solihull Town Centre. The north west of the settlement is crossed by the M42 with junction 5 providing access to motorway network. The main A road through the area is the A4141 running from Solihull through Knowle, on to Chadwick End and out of the Borough towards Warwick.
  11. The settlement is well served by public transport with bus services running throughout the area with routes to Solihull, Balsall Common and Coventry. Regular train services from Dorridge Station in the centre of the village provide links to Kidderminster, Solihull, Birmingham, Leamington Spa and London. However, whilst Dorridge Station car park can accommodate over 100 vehicles, this well used station quickly reaches capacity in the mornings with commuter parking resulting in overspill parking in residential roads nearby. This also affects the availability of parking for local shoppers.
  12. The 2013 Solihull Local Plan identified land for housing at 3 sites in the settlement. These were Four Ashes Road, Bentley Heath; Hampton Road, Knowle; and Middlefield, Knowle. The sites at Four Ashes Road and Hampton Road are complete and have delivered a total of 211 dwellings including 51 extra care units, with the site at Middlefield Road providing 110 dwellings. Like other areas in the Borough, there have also been a number of windfall developments in the settlement.
  13. In April 2019 the Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath Neighbourhood Plan was 'made' by the Council. It is therefore part of the statutory Development Plan for Solihull and sets out the objectives and vision for the area as it develops in the future. Further development within the Neighbourhood Area will therefore be expected to support this vision and objectives, and planning applications should be in accordance with the relevant policies of the Neighbourhood Plan, where there is no conflict with the Local Plan.

The Settlement in the Future

  1. Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath is one of two rural settlements in the Borough that has a full range of facilities including both secondary & primary schools, health services and a range of shops, services and facilities. As such it is well placed to accommodate growth in excess of just its own local needs. Given that the area is mainly residential, the opportunities to develop on previously developed land in KDBH are extremely limited and Green Belt release around the settlement has been required to accommodate new development. However, maintaining separation of KDBH from Solihull and other settlements will continue to be important to preserve the character and context of the villages.
  2. Although the settlement does not have significant areas of employment uses (other than service uses) and many of the area's economically active residents travel out to work, there is good access to the motorway and wider road network. Whilst the main road through the centre of Knowle will continue to provide an important link in this regard, it can be congested at peak times and is likely to experience increased vehicle movements in the future, in any event. Given that the historic medieval core of Knowle is centred on the High Street and is protected by conservation area status, it will be important to mitigate congestion in this area in order to maintain the village character of this part of the settlement. Similarly, other roads in the area such as Station Road, principally around school drop off and pick up times, see the free flow of traffic interrupted and notable parking difficulties. However, by relocating the school further away from Station Road and changing the access to Warwick Road, there is an opportunity for the school related traffic congestion and parking issues currently experienced to be alleviated, resulting in associated benefits to highway safety.
  3. The area is however well served by public transport and it will be important to retain and where possible improve the public transport offer. Dorridge railway station will continue to provide an important facility for local commuters. Opportunities for enhancing existing walking and cycling routes and creating new routes will continue to be explored, particularly where these would provide access to schools, local centres and the railway station.
  4. It will also be important to ensure that the local centres remain economically strong, vibrant and continue to provide, support and enhance the variety of services and facilities for the local population.
  5. The historic core of Knowle will continue to be protected and enhanced and the local character and distinctiveness of the settlements conserved, particularly, the Victorian and Edwardian development around Dorridge railway station.
  6. 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 settlement. 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.
  7. Education facilities in the area will remain successful. Pressure on primary schools will be alleviated through the provision of an additional school and secondary school facilities will be significantly improved to ensure that the available capacity and full potential of the Arden Academy can be maximised.

What is Required for the Settlement in the Future?

  1. Development in and around KDBH is not only an opportunity for the settlement to play a major part in accommodating the wider needs of the Borough, but also to accommodate a scale of development that is capable of supporting infrastructure provision that can help play a part in dealing with existing issues and provide the necessary facilities for future residents. In particular the following areas are identified:
  2. Improved Public Transport – A higher population gives greater potential for improved public transport services to be viable, e.g. better frequency of bus services.
  3. Parking Improvements – The provision of appropriate additional off-street parking may be considered in centres. In addition, decked parking at Dorridge railway station could be considered in order to increase capacity and alleviate the impact of commuter parking on surrounding roads.
  4. Highway Improvements – The Council's highway evidence highlights that traffic in the settlement is set to increase over the Plan period, even without any new development. Additional traffic growth as a result of site allocations is likely to exacerbate this situation and highway improvements will be required at various locations. Whilst evidence indicates that traffic lights would provide a technically acceptable solution to traffic flows through the settlement, additional work will be undertaken to seek to identify alternative highways solutions that do not include traffic lights. The Neighbourhood Forum will be engaged in this process and views will be invited on what options are considered to be available and appropriate, using an evidenced based approach. Such options can then be tested through pre-application engagement with local communities and the highways authority to test alternatives to reach the most reasonable approach.
  5. Pedestrian and Cycling Connectivity – Enhancements to encourage and promote walking and cycling in the settlement, particularly towards the local centres, schools and public transport will be required. Developments will be expected to ensure that walking and cycling connectivity is provided both within and beyond the site boundary, linking in with the existing and proposed cycle and walking networks identified in the Council's Cycling and Walking Strategy, as well as routes for recreation.
  6. New Education Provision – Given the existing pressure on primary school places and the additional pressure that will be generated as a result of further development in the settlement, a new primary school will be required in Knowle. Whilst the provision of secondary school places is theoretically sufficient, the current infrastructure constraints of Arden Academy affect how efficiently it can be used in the future. It is recognised that the academy has some up-to-date and modern teaching space; however, it's supporting infrastructure including kitchens/dining space and other supporting facilities does not match this and the secondary school places that may be available cannot be accessed without these supporting facilities. It is therefore proposed that a new purpose built and modern facility must be provided for the academy within the allocation site. Additional primary school provision is also required to support the level of growth in the settlement and this can be provided as a stand-alone school with shared facilities, or as part of an 'all-through' school with the academy..
  7. To achieve appropriate efficiencies the primary school with be constructed as a two form entry, but that facilities for the second form entry of which need not be fitted out on opening. Rather that monitoring of housing numbers is used to trigger the fitting out and occupation of the second form of entry when it is demonstrated that demand for places is such that it would not prejudice the continued viability of other primary schools in the settlement.
  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. Sport 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. New sports pitch provision is proposed on land off Hampton Road should redevelopment of the existing Knowle Football Club take place.
  10. Concept Master Plans –Concept masterplans have been prepared for each of the site allocations proposed in this settlement, in accordance with planning policy and best practice guidance. 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.
  11. Green Belt Enhancements – The 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 also for wider Green Infrastructure improvements (e.g. parkland/woodland).
  12. Community Infrastructure Levy – As the area is covered by 'made' Neighbourhood Plan, 25% of the levy collected will be spent in the area. The Local Authority will engage with the local community and agree with them how best to spend the funding, which could be used to take forward appropriate projects that the community have identified as priorities through the Neighbourhood Plan for example. This can include simple, relatively low cost actions (e.g. further traffic regulation orders) through to more substantial projects.
  13. Affordable Housing and Smaller Market Homes – Affordable housing will be required on development sites (in accordance with the Local Plan) and smaller market homes for younger people wishing to stay in the area will be sought.

Proposed Approach

  1. Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath is a rural settlement identified for significant expansion. Given that the opportunities to develop on previously developed land in KDBH 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 in Green Belt as supported in the Green Belt assessment and any other evidence base and constraints.
  2. Some of the sites, in particular the land south of Knowle, have multiple and potential complex land assembly issues. It is important that sites such as this 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 and all relevant landowners/development promoters. , Work will be undertaken on a collaborative and comprehensive basis to ensure a quality development is delivered. This will include joint responsibility for the provision of infrastructure, and this latter point will also be relevant to other sites around the village which also need to ensure they contribute towards the provision of the required infrastructure.

Proposed Allocations

(40) Policy KN1 - Hampton Road, Knowle

  1. The site is allocated for 180 dwellings.
  2. Development of the site should be consistent with the principles as shown in the concept masterplan, which include:
    1. Preserving the setting of the Grade 1 Listed Grimshaw Hall. 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 1.4ha public open space. Any formal play features will need to be sympathetic to the historic setting of Grimshaw Hall;
    3. Retention of trees and hedgerows along Hampton Road to conserve the character of this approach into Knowle;
    4. Retention of Local Wildlife Sites and provision of an appropriate buffer to Purnells Brook Woodland Local Wildlife Site. No development will be permitted on the Local Wildlife Site.
    5. Provision of suitable SuDS and flood risk management. Development should be located outside of the areas identified as being higher risk flood zones.
    6. Pedestrian and cycle connectivity within and beyond the site boundary
    7. 5% of open market dwellings to be provided in the form of Self and Custom Build Plots in accordance with Policy 4D
    8. Relocation of the existing sports pitches currently occupied by Knowle Football Club;
  3. The land currently accommodating Knowle Football Club has been identified as a  potential site for the development of a care village or retirement complex. Subject to other policies in the Plan, the principle of older persons' accommodation in this location would be supported.
  4. Replacement sports provision:
    1. The current site of Knowle Football Club will not be available for redevelopment until the existing pitches have been reprovided and are ready for use, within the vicinity of the existing site.
    2. Appropriate facilities associated with the provision of outdoor sport will be permitted in the Green Belt, provided they preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with purposes of including land within it .
    3. The preferred site for the relocation of the existing playing pitches is between the new development and the canal, as shown on the concept masterplan.
  5. Infrastructure requirements should include:
    1. Financial contribution to new and improved education provision in Knowle, as proposed on Site Allocation KN2 South of Knowle (Arden Triangle);
    2. Reprovision of the existing sports pitches;
    3. Highway improvements as required including speed reduction measures and access improvements along Hampton Road, and highway capacity improvements at the A4141 junction;
    4. Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Knowle village centre and the Grand Union Canal towpath.
  6. Green Belt enhancements should include:
    1. Woodland planting;
    2. Improved landscaping;
    3. On site green and blue infrastructure that is multifunctional and accessible
    4. Public open space
    5. Access improvements to the wider Green Belt beyond the site boundary
    6. Delivery of, and access to replacement sports provision
    7. Biodiversity enhancements
    8. Any other compensatory improvements that are considered acceptable
  7. 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 KN1 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 areas of land either side of Hampton Road. The smaller site to the south of Hampton Road includes the current ground of Knowle Football Club. The larger site to the north is agricultural land.
  2. The southern part of the allocation is immediately adjacent to the built up area of the settlement and would represent a continuation of the existing development along Hampton Road. The site is relatively well-contained and a defensible Green Belt boundary is provided.
  3. The site currently accommodates Knowle Football Club, which is seeking to relocate in order to secure better facilities. This land is identified as a potential site for a care village or retirement complex which would be acceptable in principle in this location. The site performs very well in overall accessibility terms and there is good access to all key facilities in Knowle.
  4. The current playing pitches will need to be reprovided and available for use prior to the redevelopment of the existing football club site. The preferred area of relocation is on land between the new development and the canal, as shown on the Concept Masterplan. Whilst the relocation proposals may contain elements that would amount to inappropriate development in the Green Belt as defined by the NPPF, the existing sports pitches will be used to bring forward sustainable residential development in this accessible location. It will allow for new and improved sporting facilities to be provided in the immediate vicinity that could serve the wider community. Sports pitch provision in this location will also facilitate accessibility to land retained in the Green Belt and enhance its beneficial use by providing opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation in accordance with paragraph 141 the NPPF.
  5. The Council therefore believe that 'very special circumstances' will exist to support the relocation of the sports pitches and associated facilities. Notwithstanding this, development proposals should be sympathetic to its Green Belt location, local context and character, in accordance with other policies in the plan
  6. The larger part of the allocation to the north of Hampton Road also lies immediately adjacent to the built up area of the settlement, with residential development already present on two sides. The allocation constitutes a 'rounding- off' of the settlement in a logical manner by continuing the Green Belt boundary on from the rear of the properties along Wychwood Avenue, down to Hampton Road.
  7. The northern part of the site is located immediately opposite the front elevation of the Grade I listed Grimshaw Hall. Evidence from the Council's Heritage Impact Assessment recognises the significance of this important heritage asset and identifies potential harm to its setting as a result of development in the immediate vicinity. It is therefore recommended that development should be confined to the western part of the site (as shown on the Concept Masterplan) between the former hedge lines (now removed) and Purnell's Brook. The areas between Hampton Road and limits of any new development should be landscaped as amenity areas to enhance the setting of the Hall. In making the recommendations, the guiding principle is to ensure that development cannot be seen from within the grounds of Grimshaw Hall and the concept masterplan for site 8 seeks to reflect this.
  8. The site is subject to some further constraints including Purnells Brook Woodland and Purnells Brook Meadows Local Wildlife Sites, (although the former runs along the extreme north western edge of the site) as well as a number of significant trees. These will need to be carefully considered in the design of any future scheme. No development will be permitted on the Purnells Brook Meadow LWS and an appropriate buffer should be provided to the Purnells Brook Woodland LWS. The Level 2 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment has identified significant fluvial and surface water flood risk along Purnell's Brook. Development should therefore be limited to those parts of the site that are located outside the higher flood zones.
  9. The site performs very well in overall accessibility terms and there is good access to all key facilities in Knowle. Development on both the northern and southern parts of the site will be expected to build on this and ensure that walking and cycling connectivity is provided both within and beyond the site boundary, linking in with the existing and proposed cycle and walking networks identified in the Council's Cycling and Walking Strategy. Measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport such as the provision of pedestrian and cycle connectivity towards Knowle village centre and the Grand Union Canal towpath will be expected.
  10. The allocation as a whole is in an area with medium landscape character sensitivity and low visual sensitivity. The landscape value of the area is medium with an overall low landscape capacity to accommodate new development. Development of Site 8 at Hampton Road is consistent with Option G of the Spatial Strategy for the significant expansion of rural villages.

(97) Policy KN2 : South of Knowle (Arden Triangle)

  1. The site is allocated for 600 dwellings together with the redevelopment of the Arden Academy secondary school and new primary school to provide an 'all through' school.
  2. Development of the site should be consistent with the principles as shown in the concept masterplan, which include:
    1. Retention of important landscape features and the setting of heritage assets;
    2. A site layout designed to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists, providing safe and direct routes throughout the development linking to existing and proposed footway/footpath/cycleway networks;
    3. Provision of suitable SuDS and flood risk management. Careful design consideration should be given to the opportunities to reduce flood risk within the site boundary. Deculverting the watercourse passing through the site will be required to provide flood alleviation and environmental benefits;
    4. Provision of 4.9ha of open space. Doorstep, Local and Neighbourhood Play areas will be required. Public open space should provide a green link to the neighbouring Middlefield Development;
    5. Retention of the Local Wildlife Site. No development will be permitted on the Local Wildlife Site;
    6. Biodiversity off -setting for the loss of semi-improved grassland;
    7. Retention of the MIND Garden;
    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. Infrastructure requirements should include:
    1. Financial contribution to the provision of an 'all through' school to provide a facility for both primary and secondary education on the site;
    2. Highway improvements as required
    3. Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including pedestrian and cycle connectivity to the surrounding area including Knowle village centre, Dorridge Railway Station and the wider Green Belt.
  4. 4. Green Belt enhancements should include:
    1. Woodland planting;
    2. Improved landscaping;
    3. On site green and blue infrastructure that is multifunctional and accessible;
    4. Public open space;
    5. Access improvements to the wider Green Belt beyond the site boundary;
    6. Biodiversity enhancements
    7. Any other compensatory improvements that are considered acceptable.
  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 KN2 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 lies immediately adjacent to the settlement. It is well contained by Warwick Road and Grove Road, which provides a new robust and defensible Green Belt boundary.
  2. The site is allocated for 600 dwellings, the redevelopment of Arden Academy and a new primary school to create an 'all through' school.
  3. The new school will meet the educational needs of both primary and secondary pupils in the settlement in a single location, utilising shared and modern facilities, many of which are not often available to primary school children.
  4. The KDBH Neighbourhood Plan also includes aspirations for facilities such as schools to be available for use by the wider community. The all-through school will deliver improved and modern infrastructure that will not only support education and increase opportunities for pupils at all stages of their learning, but also provide facilities that can be used and enjoyed by the wider community.
  5. The new school will be located away from Station Road and will not be accessed from it. Whilst there will be pedestrian and cycling connectivity from both within and through the site to the schools, the main access will be taken off Warwick Road. This will result in existing school traffic being displaced from Station Road, allowing for more free-flowing traffic in this area of the settlement, and thereby reducing congestion. It will also provide an opportunity for higher density residential development to take place on one of the most accessible parts of the Site, which will facilitate more sustainable access to the village centres and public transport links, as well as reducing car use in and around this part of the village. Funding for the school will be expected via section 106 agreements associated with the development of the allocated sites.
  6. In accordance with the Council's standards, 4.9ha of open space will be required on site. Doorstep, local and neighbourhood play areas should be provided and the public open space should include a green link to the neighbouring Middlefield development to support and encourage connectivity and permeability.
  7. The site as a whole includes a number of constraints including a Local Wildlife Site, protected trees and other valued landscape features. The Grade II listed Rotten Row Farm also lies adjacent to the site, with the site providing some of its setting. These issues will need careful consideration in the design of any future scheme. Development will also incur the loss of semi-improved grassland on the site and biodiversity off-setting will therefore be required.
  8. The Level 2 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment includes this site. It highlights that fluvial and surface water flood risks are present along the route of the Cuttle Brook and tributaries within the site boundary. Public Open Space within the site could be utilised to provide flood alleviation benefits and the deculverting of the watercourse passing through the site could provide significant environmental benefits. Areas identified as being at risk from fluvial and surface water flooding should be integrated into green infrastructure, which presents wider opportunities to improve biodiversity and amenity as well as climate change adaptation. An integrated drainage, landscape and ecological strategy should be developed for the site and a Flood Risk Assessment will be required at the detailed design stage.
  9. The areas of the site closest to the settlement perform very well in terms of accessibility to all key services and facilities, as well as public transport. Additional measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport both within and beyond the site boundary will be required. Development should include permeable and attractive walking and cycling links to encourage sustainable access and connectivity to Knowle village centre, Dorridge Railway Station, and the wider settlement and Green Belt beyond. It will be expected that safe and convenient routes will be provided throughout the site and link in with existing and proposed cycle and walking networks, including those that are identified in the Council's Cycling and Walking Strategy.
  10. The site is in an area with medium landscape character sensitivity and low visual sensitivity. The landscape value of the area is medium with an overall low landscape capacity to accommodate new development. Development of the site would be consistent with Option G of the Spatial Strategy for the significant expansion of rural villages.
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