A Lichfield councillor said the benefits of allowing land to be sold off for housing “outweigh the negatives” caused by the loss of the public open space.

The land at Netherstowe earmarked for housing

The cabinet at Lichfield District Council agreed to push ahead with the disposal of two sites at Leyfields and Netherstowe.

A meeting heard how a contract had been agreed to sell the sites to housing provider Bromford – a move leader Cllr Doug Pullen said had left him in an “impossible situation” due to the agreement being signed off without his knowledge.

While the decision means the sale of the land can now go ahead, planning permission will still need to be granted before any homes can be built.

A petition has been signed by more than 1,000 local residents objecting to the plans.

But deputy leader Cllr Iain Eadie told the meeting that not continuing with the sale could actually have a negative impact on people living in the area.

Iain Eadie

“This is a decision that was taken before the current cabinet, but I do recognise it was fully in accordance with the ambition of the council at that time – which was to bring forward more affordable housing.

“If we chose not to carry on with the prior decision we would be putting that housing in jeopardy.

“I don’t think we should lose that housing as it’s in a ward that needs it greatly.

“Because we’ve got to the point where a contract has been signed, as an authority we would now count that money and it would be vital in terms of going towards the new leisure centre we’re looking to see delivered in that ward.

“That is something else I wouldn’t want to see put at jeopardy.

“While I understand what we would like to do going forward, given the situation of where things have progressed to and it what it does do for the benefit of the people in the ward, on this rare occasion the benefits do outweigh the negatives of the loss of the public open space.”

Cllr Iain Eadie, Lichfield District Council

“Distressing, uncomfortable and embarrassing”

The land off Leyfields earmarked for new housing

One of the issues relating to the sale of the sites was that consultation did not happen before the contract was agreed as it should have under the Local Government Act 1972.

Cabinet member Cllr Rob Strachan described the failure of the process as “an embarrassment” – and said he did not agree with Cllr Eadie’s position on affordable housing being more beneficial than keeping the land as open space.

Cllr Rob Strachan

“If this pandemic has shown us anything it’s how vitally important it is for use to have amenity space for enjoyment and exercise close to our homes, particularly in more deprived areas.

“I used to live close to the land at Netherstowe – it is very valuable green space.

“I desperately hoped that when we came to revisit this disposal we would be in a position to change our minds, but we find ourselves in a position that is distressing, uncomfortable and, if I’m honest, embarrassing.

“By virtue of that contract being signed and that it didn’t come before us before being signed is an error, but I believe that we are legally compelled to agree the disposal.

“Unlike Cllr Eadie, I can’t agree that the benefit of bringing forward affordable housing outweighs the loss of this specific space – it does not.

“I am very, very uncomfortable with this action, but the presence of the contract forces our hand.

“All I will do in agreeing with enormous reluctance to the disposal of the land is to seek a reassurance that this will not happen again.”

Cllr Rob Strachan, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Andy Smith said that while he felt there was no choice but to approve the disposal of land, he did not agree that there were sufficient benefits to outweigh the loss of such sites.

“For me, a housing need does not trump the need for well-used public open space.

“I’m extremely against the development here. However, like my colleagues I’ve looked at the process and what happened and where we are in terms of the legal agreement being signed.

“We cannot sit as a cabinet and jeopardise the use of taxpayers money in fighting an agreement with large legal fees to get out of a contract that has been signed.”

Cllr Andy Smith

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14 Comments

  1. This is disgraceful. It is open public space. There are many new houses being built already in Lichfield. We cannot go around filling in any open space that is there.

    That is before we talk about conflict of interest between planning and ownership or benefit.

  2. Who is facing significant disciplinary action because due process was not followed in progressing this decision? Or does the builder supply the whitewash as part of the deal?

  3. I wonder how affordable these homes are going to be.
    If the council didn’t follow due process how can that contract be legal.
    Great thinking, take the people’s open space away to give them a leisure centre.

  4. This has happened again and again; we hear about the “benefits” but the outcomes are always the same! Our doctors, dentists are already full so getting an appointment can be weeks away! where will all these people go?? not to mention the flood risks! Yes there will be drainage – but you don’t have to be an expert to know water does not go through concrete! and I have witnessed rain water actually bypassing the drains! as they always get blocked with all the litter,fag ends, leaves etc.. please don’t cover Lichfield with concrete!!

  5. LDC Elected members all banding together yet again, the price of more build means our children’s future around open green spaces is becoming less. Your legacy will be a bigger carbon footprint, you must feel so proud.

    Lichfield has built enough, not everyone has to have a house.

  6. What a joke. Absolutely disgusting. Eadie won’t be happy until we are well and truly living in a concrete jungle. Another “oops” from LDC. As someone who has worked with local councils in the planning arena for almost 20 years, I have never encountered a council that promotes the sale of public spaces, as heavily as LDC. It’s depressing. All for a quick buck.

    What is it going to take for people to say “enough is enough”? We are represented by morons.

  7. Why is there no disciplinary action about the abject failure to follow procedures in summer? Surely the individuals responsible should be accountable for the legal costs which LDC refuse to pay to correct this abhorrent sell off.

  8. The question also has to be asked. If this land was sold in July. Why did Doug Pullen and the rest of the council only admit this in January?

  9. I treid to search for the planning proposals online does anyoen know where they are? It is time the council realised that OPEN SPACE in the town centre is the future, as shops and housing will inevitably move out as they have done in Tamworth. This land on Nether stowe Lane is valuable as open space.

  10. I have yet to find any “affordable” housing in Lichfield. Or could someone please advise which wage bracket exactly is supposed to afford what’s on offer?

  11. Susan I agree with you. Who can afford the Affordable housing? I know some who have been saving for a deposit for 7 years and still haven’t enough for a deposit. I am also told that the Help to Buy Scheme isn’t as helpful as it states it is and that’s why they haven’t applied for it. Affordable housing will be even more unaffordable in the current situation with small businesses and people’s jobs on the line. And with Brexit so much is uncertain and maybe will be so for a few years, at least five or so I have read. Thinking ahead say 20 years possibly even 10, the UK population will be in decline anyway. With us baby boomers going and more or less gone by then (yes I am a boomer) and with the birth rates falling for one reason and another, it’s likely there will be a lot of properties on the housing market. Perhaps this will act to reduce property prices and cause it to become dare I say it, affordable. That is unless the Government has other plans in the offing regarding increasing the population by other means. Maybe that’s the question needs to be asked.

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