Solihull Local Plan (Draft Submission) 2020
Ended on the 14 December 2020
(17) UK Central Hub
The Area Now
- The area known as the UK Central Hub is a significant contributor to the wider West Midlands economy and a transport hub for the Midlands Engine. The Hub is focussed on the main economic assets located around junction 6 of the M42. The principal elements are as follows:
- Arden Cross Land including the site of the future HS2 interchange
- Birmingham Airport
- The NEC
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Birmingham Business Park
- The Hub forms part of the wider UK Central concept which comprise of four interconnected economic opportunity zones. Together with the UK Central Hub which makes up Zone 1 the UK Central also includes: Zone 2 – North Solihull, Zone 3 – Solihull Town Centre and Zone 4 – Blythe Valley Business Park.
HS2 Interchange – Arden Cross
- The triangular shaped site that is to accommodate the HS2 Interchange station is currently a largely open parcel of land bounded by the M42, A45 and A452. Construction of HS2 in the Borough has commenced and the HS2 interchange station will be in the heart of the UK Central Hub on land adjacent to the NEC. It is forecast that the first trains to run on the route will be between 2029-33, at which point the journey time from London to UK Central Hub will be just 38 minutes.
- The WMCA Investment Prospectus 2020 recognises the opportunity that the HS2 rail link offers to drive economic growth and prosperity, and the significance of UK Central, particularly the Hub Area around the Interchange station.
- Alongside the economic benefits the development of the hub is an opportunity as part of the wider UK Central proposals to improve links with the surrounding area in particular North Solihull with the prospect for improved access to employment.
- Birmingham Airport is the principal international gateway into the Region and has a major role in the national airports infrastructure. It is a key economic growth driver, particularly regarding the knowledge economy, high value-added sectors and overseas inward investment and international trade. The development of new routes to the Far East, America, India and China enabled by the main runway extension, completed in 2014, enhance the Airport's capacity to contribute to local and regional economic growth as a key component of UKC. The HS2 Station will improve the accessibility and attractiveness of the Airport from further afield, particularly London and the South-East, and eventually the North.
National Exhibition Centre (NEC)
- The continued success of the NEC is important to the local and regional economy and is the UK's largest exhibition centre. The role of the NEC has evolved from its early exhibition centre beginnings in the 1970's to become a major events, tourism and leisure venue, serving both business and leisure markets and contributing significantly to Solihull's and the Region's visitor economy. The opening of Resorts World (a £150 million mixed use leisure development) in 2015 demonstrated the evolving role that the NEC plays; and the Local Plan Review should provide a framework to allow the complex to take advantage of future opportunities. It will continue to evolve.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR)
- Jaguar Land Rover is one of the West Midlands', and UK's, most important businesses and a key driver of economic recovery, as an advanced manufacturing firm developing leading technologies including in low emissions vehicles. The Lode Lane plant in Solihull currently provides about 7,300 jobs and is set to increase to more than 9,000 following substantial new investment in the plant, demonstrating the company's commitment to Solihull.
- Part of the area beyond the north east of the existing plant has recently been developed to provide a 14ha vehicle despatch area which opened in 2015. The Council considered that there were very special circumstances for allowing this development in the Green Belt. This was to support the operational needs of this internationally significant company that needs to remain competitive in the global vehicles market in order to continue to support significant numbers of jobs in the Region that rely on the success of JLR.
Birmingham and Blythe Valley Business Parks
- Birmingham and Blythe Valley Business Parks have successfully attracted new investment to Solihull and the Region in accordance with their original role of helping to modernise and diversify the Region's economy by attracting knowledge based employment and combatting decline in the Region's manufacturing base. Birmingham Business Park is well placed near Birmingham Airport and the NEC to encourage new growth and investment. Blythe Valley Business Park is competitive with the south-east and M40 corridor and is capable of developing new facilities to promote and support innovation and entrepreneurism.
- These two high quality, managed business parks have a key role in Solihull's success in attracting business investment in high value added sectors including ICT, business and professional services, creative industries, construction and engineering. It is important that these high quality sites continue to attract knowledge economy investment to Solihull and the Region, thereby underpinning economic recovery and growth. This includes further realising the potential of Blythe Valley Business Park as a location for innovation uses and new enterprise. There is also potential for Birmingham Business Park to play a greater role in linking investment and employment opportunities to the North Solihull area.
- To reinvigorate these sites, the range of acceptable uses on them was broadened under the 2013 Solihull Local Plan in response to changed market conditions. There is growing competition from town and city centre locations as occupiers realise the benefits to employees of access to a range of facilities and to public transport. Better facilities will be needed if they are to continue to secure appropriate investment.
The Area in the Future
- It is anticipated that the UK Central Hub Area will make a significant contribution towards the delivery of homes and economic development in the Borough during the plan period and beyond. The extension of High Speed rail to the West Midlands will be significant, reducing journey times to London to 38 minutes and enhancing existing connectivity provided via Birmingham Airport and via the region's extensive road and motorway network. As the site of the first railway interchange station outside London, the Hub Area is uniquely placed to capture these benefits.
- The Hub Area is therefore a unique site with the potential to deliver major growth on a nationally significant scale both to meet the economic growth aims of the Borough as well as the wider growth aspirations of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
- It is clear that co-ordinating the development ambitions of all stakeholders and delivering a range of growth opportunities will provide multiple benefits for the Borough and wider area including:
- The delivery of a significant amount of jobs
- A greater range and choice of new homes for The Hub, Solihull and the wider Housing Market Area
- New and unique forms of high quality development
- The creation of healthy neighbourhoods
- Joined up green infrastructure
- The delivery of strategic infrastructure
- The HS2 Interchange site was included in Policy P1 of the Draft Local Plan for high quality, high density mixed use development with the potential to provide 1,000 homes (in the plan period). Since then, further work carried out with the UGC has indicated that there is capacity for the site to accommodate a higher level of growth.
- Work undertaken to date is indicating that the residential component will be focussed on two components of the Hub Area, land at Arden Cross and land at the NEC.
- These two areas are now expected to provide up to 5,000 homes, with 2,500 being delivered in the plan period. The NEC Masterplan includes provision for 2,500 dwellings and these can start to be delivered earlier (potentially from 2022) than the Arden Cross site, which won't be fully available until after HS2 has been completed.
- Land is also allocated in this Plan for further employment at Damson Parkway to allow for the future expansion of Jaguar Land Rover, Birmingham Airport, more general employment needs and a relocated Household Waste and Recycling Centre and Depot. The Local Plan also provides a framework to support the extensive supply chain associated with JLR.
- The Council has developed a vision and set of place making principles with key stakeholders to transform The Hub into a distinct place with a strong sense of identity; combining growth aspirations, integrated landscapes, and strategic infrastructure to create a connected destination for business, leisure and living. This vision is set in the context of maximising the benefits of the sites connectivity, provision of green and blue infrastructure, optimising land use and excellence of design.
- Alongside the economic benefits the development of the Hub Area is an opportunity as part of the wider UK Central Solihull proposals to improve links with the surrounding area in particular North Solihull with the prospect for improved access to employment.
- Due to the scale and nature of what is proposed a bespoke approach to planning and delivery at the Hub is required reflecting its complex land ownership and mix of uses. As such the UK Central Solihull Urban Growth Company (UGC) was established by the Council in 2016 to lead the delivery of the project. Through the UGC the Council has been working closely with the range of landowners responsible for the site which reflect both public and private interests. There is collective support for the overall vision and a commitment to actively working towards delivering it.
What is required for the settlement in the future
- Coordinated approach - The delivery of the site is complex and a coordinated approach by all stakeholders is necessary led by the UGC. The UGC and the Council have therefore been working closely with all key stakeholders including: Birmingham City Council, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Arden Cross Company Limited Consortium, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham Airport, Jaguar Land Rover Birmingham Business Park, Highways England, relevant utilities companies and HS2 Ltd.
- The UGC published an updated UK Central Hub Growth and Infrastructure Plan (January 2018) and an updated Framework Plan (February 2018) to align the growth aspirations of all these key stakeholders and provide an overall view of how development and infrastructure can be delivered across the Local Plan period. A primary focus of this is to ensure that constraints to development such as crucial infrastructure requirements are addressed in the early stages to ensure the high economic growth aspirations of the site can be delivered.
- In terms of delivering the vision and objectives for the site and address the key challenges the Hub framework is based on five key place making principles. These have been designed to guide a common approach to development across the site:
- Improve accessibility
- Establish a high quality green and blue network
- Create sustainable, high quality communities
- Leverage land with temporary uses
- Generate a clear sense of place
- Garden community - A funding proposal has been put forward to support the development of The Hub as a garden community. Incorporating garden community principles will be key in delivering the overall place making vision for The Hub supporting the development of the site as a sustainable high quality environment and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place to deliver and support the growth aspirations for the site. It will assist in supporting key components of the proposal such as the establishment of a network of high quality green and blue infrastructure.
- Transport Infrastructure - A significant amount of transport infrastructure will be required to assist in the delivery of the site. Primary road infrastructure upgrades are already being pursued including changes to Junction 4 of the M6, Junction 6 and a new Junction 5A of the M42 providing links to the site in preparation for the implementation of HS2.
- HS2 will be providing an Automated People Mover (APM) connecting the interchange station with the NEC, Birmingham International Station and Birmingham Airport. A Metro tram route is planned from Birmingham City Centre through East Birmingham and Solihull to Birmingham Business Park, Birmingham Airport, Birmingham International Station, the NEC and HS2 Interchange site.
- Social and community infrastructure – It is important that the full range of facilities necessary to support the creation of a high quality sustainable community at The Hub are provided. These include healthcare and education facilities to serve residents of The Hub but also the potential to capture the wider benefits of the scheme by enhancements to infrastructure serving the wider community. This also includes improving access to jobs and working towards improving the skills base. During the plan period it is expected that a new primary school will be required to serve the new community. It is recognised that growth will continue beyond the plan period and additional social and community infrastructure will be needed, and this is likely to include provision of a second primary school and a secondary school.
- Green and blue infrastructure – It is proposed that a network of green and blue infrastructure will be integrated throughout the development with the intention to provide a high quality sense of place designed around the idea of the Garden community. The provision of Green Infrastructure is a particularly important element as it will allow existing features to not only be retained, but enhanced as part of an integrated approach.
- The Green Belt boundary will need to be amended to accommodate the land at Arden Cross (140 hectares) in order to deliver the HS2 interchange station and wider development at The Hub. This will facilitate the delivery of the site alongside development at the NEC which is already outside the Green Belt. These proposals are site specific as they are dependent on the delivery of HS2 and the interchange station and will assist in delivering the needs of key economic assets supporting the local and regional economy. The land is bounded by main roads that provide strong defensible Green Belt boundaries. The exceptional circumstances set out in Policy P1 for releasing the Arden Cross Land from the Green Belt are therefore justified.
- The delivery of The Hub site is complex and the Local Plan may also need to take forward other relevant elements of the wider proposals being developed by the UGC and key stakeholders to realise development. Land at Damson Parkway will also need to be released from the Green Belt in order to accommodate expansion at Jaguar Land Rover.
- It is anticipated that HS2 will be operational from 2029-33. Subject to the delivery of HS2 the proposals are likely to come forward towards the end of the plan period. It will therefore be necessary for the Local Plan to retain a degree of flexibility in dealing with the site to take account of the emerging plans.
- Further work since the Draft Local Plan was published has identified the capacity to bring forward a higher level of housing on the site to better support the level of economic development proposed. It is important that this mix is delivered in a co-ordinated way with the aim of achieving a high quality sustainable environment.
- The site will have wide implications in terms of economic growth serving a large geographical area across the Borough's administrative boundaries. The Council will continue to engage with neighbouring authorities as well as other local authorities across the region as the proposals go forward to understand the impact. Given the nature of the proposal it is important that this is maintained as a fluid process and reflects the importance of ongoing engagement and collaborative working as part of the Duty to Cooperate.
- In bringing forward development at The Hub regard will also be given to proposals affecting the wider site:
- The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Master plan (December 2018) – The creation of "NEC City" is proposed through an £8.5 million redevelopment of 75 hectares of the wider 175 hectare NEC campus site over the next 20 years. It aims to respond to the 'need for the region to have internationally competitive opportunities for investment'. It seeks to provide a destination combining entertainment, leisure, exhibition space, and commercial and residential floorspace to create an 'ultimate visitor experience'. It is envisaged that this will be achieved via the creation of five components: the Global exhibition centre (NEC), an Entertainment Zone, Lakeside, the Commercial gateway, and through creation of a Rapid transit loop all underpinned by the development principles of connectivity, activity and design. The delivery of the masterplan, as with the wider UK Central Solihull Hub Area, is reliant on a coordinated approach to the delivery of infrastructure and the development of the site through a phased approach. A key element of the strategy is to release surface car parking land for development and re-provide this capacity in on site multi storey car parks. A phased replacement plan is being developed to enable the release of land. NEC City has been conceived to fit in with the wider aspirations for the UK Central Solihull Hub Area and reflect the overall vision for the area.
- Jaguar Land Rover expansion – Land at Damson Parkway is being allocated to accommodate employment development, including future expansion at JLR. Whilst it is unclear at this stage the exact nature of future proposals, the site will be a key element of the UK Central Solihull Hub Area proposals.
- Birmingham Business Park – The Park already occupies an important role as a prime employment location. It is important that the wider proposals for The Hub builds upon this.
- Birmingham Airport Masterplan (2018)– The masterplan (published pre Covid-19) for the airport predicts growth in passenger numbers per year from 13 million in 2018 to 18 million in 2033, and considers the potential for and implications of higher growth levels to 24 million. It is framed in the context of the national policy to make best use of the existing extended runway. It sets out plans for £500 million of new investment to expand the terminal building, increase the number of aircraft stands, extend ancillary facilities and interconnect with HS2. It highlights a need for more land for ancillary facilities beyond the existing Airport area and identifies land near Elmdon and JLR, which includes land allocated for employment development at Damson Parkway. This is in the context of maximising the benefits of HS2 and the wider proposals for UK Central Solihull.
(12) Policy UK1 - HS2 Interchange
- This site is allocated for mixed use development including the HS2 Interchange station and ancillary infrastructure, commercial, residential and associated retail, leisure and cultural uses.
- Development of this site should be consistent with the place making principles set out in the Hub Framework Plan, and the Arden Cross Masterplan, which encompass the following:
- Improve accessibility;
- Establish a high quality green and blue network;
- Create sustainable, high quality communities;
- Generate a clear sense of place.
- Development should accord with the following Development Principles, as set out in the Arden Cross Masterplan:
- A high density activity intensive strategy providing a mix of cultural, commercial, leisure and retail activity around the main transport hub;
- Movement corridors linking the transport hub to innovation and employment districts, higher educational campus outposts with industrial partners, mixed typology homes and natural greenspace with pedestrian permeability;
- Layout based on facilitating walking, cycling and sustainable movement patterns to enable site wide and beyond connectivity;
- Integrated public transport systems across all parts of the site and beyond;
- No development within any area of higher flood risk zones;
- Provision of above ground SuDS features;
- Enhanced landscape, green and blue infrastructure and biodiversity provision based on Hollywell Brook and other features, including historic landscape features and protection and enhancement of the setting of surrounding heritage assets;
- Future proofed to ensure development contributes towards the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and provides resilience to the impacts of climate change.
- Development should also accord with the following requirements to minimise and mitigate harm to adjacent heritage assets:
- A formal views analysis between Packington Park and the site shall be undertaken as part of a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment to inform development, and proposals should then aim to avoid causing harm to the significances of heritage assets;
- Enhance key views to and from Park Farmhouse;
- Ensure the telecommunications mast does not impinge on key views of Park Farmhouse from Packington Park Pleasure Grounds;
- Consider appropriate use of Park Farmhouse and the potential for interpretation.
- Likely infrastructure requirements will include:
- Provision of a new primary school and nursery as required by the Local Education Authority;
- Provision for primary care health services in the vicinity and financial contributions for appropriate UHB secondary care services in the wider CCG;
- Provision of leisure and community infrastructure;
- The existing culverts within the site shall be naturalised to reduce flood risk and enhance wider benefits;
- Any development adjacent to the culvert carrying Hollywell Brook beneath the Chester Road should provide flood alleviation;
- Water quality discharges from the site shall be improved through the provision of linear conveyance SuDS to ensure that the status of the River Blythe is protected and that extreme flood flow paths are not impeded;
- New highway and connectivity infrastructure.
- The Hub Framework Plan and Arden Cross Masterplan documents should be read alongside this policy. Whilst the 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 UK1 will need to be justified and demonstrate that the overall objectives for the site and its wider context are not compromised.
- This land release is driven by the location of the HS2 station and the potential this gives to making more efficient use of the land than that proposed by the HS2 Company. The release of this c140ha site from the Green Belt to accommodate the HS2 Interchange and mixed use development is not to simply serve local needs but is part of the contribution the Borough is making to the wider West Midlands area that will benefit economically from this important infrastructure provision. The ability to provide residential development as part of a mixed use development remains an important component.
- The site lies in a lower performing parcel in the Green Belt Assessment. Significant development is proposed for the HS2 rail interchange station and supporting infrastructure, which will substantially reduce the contribution of this land to Green Belt purposes. The site is in an area that has low capacity to accommodate change in the Landscape Character Assessment.
- The Sustainability Appraisal of the Strategic Housing Options (Scope Issues & Options 2015) forecast major beneficial outcomes for the UK Central Hub and HS2 Interchange Area for prosperity, access to jobs, reducing the need to travel, resource efficiency, adaptation to climate change and commercial attractiveness. Although the site performs poorly in the Sustainability Appraisal for Site 19, with significant negative effects relating to the size of the site, impact of heritage assets, and access to leisure facilities and convenience stores or supermarkets, this mixed use development will be highly accessible by public transport and provide significant convenience food and leisure opportunities associated with the NEC, station and other developments. As such the negative impacts identified are all capable of being mitigated through the context of the proposed development.
- The Heritage Impact Assessment for Site 19 identifies the potential to cause significant harm to the setting of Park Farmhouse, and harm to the setting of Packington Hall and Park. To mitigate this planting should be used to enhance key views to and from Park Farmhouse, and the telecommunications mast should be located so that it does not impinge on the key view from the Pleasure Grounds in Packington Park towards Park Farmhouse. In addition, a comprehensive Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment should be undertaken to establish a formal views analysis between Packington Park and Site UK1, to inform final development proposals. A suitable use for Park Farmhouse should be identified, which could include interpretation of its interest and significance.
- A Level 2 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment has been undertaken for this site, as a small part in the corridor of Hollywell Brook lies within higher flood zones. This area is included within the green infrastructure proposals for the site, and development will be restricted to areas within flood zone 1. There are a number of culverts within the site, and developers will be expected to naturalise the culverts wherever possible to reduce flood risk and secure wider environmental benefits. The culverted Hollywell Brook beneath Chester Road is a known flooding hotspot which significantly impacts on the highway, so any development in the proximity of the culvert will need to provide flood alleviation to this infrastructure.
- The exceptional circumstances justifying its release are set out in Policy P1. Compensatory improvements will be required for the loss of Green Belt as set out in the policy.
(85) Policy UK2 - Land at Damson Parkway
- This site is allocated for employment development to meet local employment needs, needs associated with the key economic assets in the UK Central Solihull Hub Area, and for a potential relocated Household Waste and Recycling Centre and Depot.
- Development of this site should be consistent with the principles of a Concept Masterplan for this site, which is expected to include the following:
- No development within any area of higher flood risk zones;
- Relocation of the existing sports provision off Damson Parkway to a suitable site in the vicinity (see below);
- The existing sports provision off Damson Parkway will not be available for development until a suitable alternative site is provided and ready for use, within the vicinity of the existing sites;
- The alternative site must be agreed with the governing bodies and Sport England;
- The alternative site must be in accordance with the relevant policies of the plan, in particular Policy P20;
- Likely infrastructure requirements will include:
- Development of the site should provide flood alleviation to Damson Lane;
- The Low Brook corridor shall be significantly improved and turned into a high quality linear attenuation and water quality improvement area for SuDS;
- Highway improvements as required and access improvements along Damson Parkway and Damson Lane;
- Appropriate measures to promote and enhance sustainable modes of transport including pedestrian and cycle connectivity to surrounding residential areas;
- Green Belt enhancements will include:
- Improvements to environmental quality of remaining Green Belt between the main urban area and Damson Parkway;
- Improvements to the environmental quality of Green Belt to the east to enhance/extend the important grassland habitats to the east of the site.
- 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 UK2 will need to be justified and demonstrate that the overall objectives for the site and its wider context are not compromised.
- This is an employment led land release of c94ha which will provide additional employment land to meet local needs, including future expansion for JLR and JLR related activities and ancillary development for Birmingham Airport. It will also provide an option for a relocated Household Waste and Recycling Centre and Depot, which will address needs set out in Policy P12 and enable the delivery of Site SO2 housing allocation. The release of the site from the Green Belt will meet local employment and waste management needs, and needs associated with the key economic assets within the UK Central Solihull Hub Area.
- The area east of Damson Parkway lies in a moderately performing parcel whilst the land to the west is lower performing in the Green Belt Assessment. Both parcels have been affected by development by JLR permitted under very special circumstances, so their contribution to Green Belt purposes is reduced. The site is in an area that has low capacity to accommodate change in the Landscape Character Assessment.
- The site performs reasonably well in the Sustainability Appraisal with three times as many positive or neutral effects than negative, and the only significant negative effect due to the size of the site.
- A Level 2 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment has been undertaken for this site, as a small part adjacent the eastern boundary in the corridor of Low Brook lies within higher flood zones. This area is included within the green infrastructure proposals for the site, and development will be restricted to areas within flood zone 1 and should ensure that flood risk is not increased to surrounding land uses. The low point on Damson Lane is known to flood significantly during rainfall events, so development at this point will be required to provide flood alleviation benefits to protect existing and proposed infrastructure. The Low Brook corridor on the south eastern boundary of the site has the potential to be significantly improved and turned into a high quality linear attenuation and water quality improvement area for SuDS.
- The exceptional circumstances justifying its release are set out in Policy P1. Compensatory improvements will be required for the loss of Green Belt as set out in the policy.
- A concept masterplan will be developed to help guide development of this site.