Members of Lichfield District Council’s cabinet have clashed over how to proceed with a plan for future housing needs across the district.
The draft Local Plan 2040 document has earmarked strategic housing sites where new developments could take place across the district.
|Strategic housing allocations||Approximate number of new homes|
|Land to the north-east of Lichfield||3,300|
|Land West of Fazeley||800|
|Land off Huddlesford Lane, Whittington||75|
|Land off Hay End Lane, Fradley||500|
The cabinet were discussing recommendations to progress to the next phase of the process, which will see the local plan go out to consultation – a process carried out by the council on behalf of the Planning Inspector.
However, Cllr Andy Smith proposed an amendment which would have seen the Local Plan 2040 come back to the cabinet for a further review after that step had been carried out.
But Cllr Rob Strachan said proposed changes to national planning policies meant the council could not risk delaying the progression of the document.
“It is in our interests to approve this local plan under the current legislation as opposed to the forthcoming legislation that we know will require us to find more sites, potentially release more green belt and build more houses for ourselves and other people.
“The value added by us taking the consultation responses here is nil.
“It does not represent an appropriate or acceptable use of this cabinet’s time, simply because if we then change things we’ve got to do it all again.
“The consultation is for the inspector and not for us.
“The risk of us losing control our own planning regulations is real and too great for me to accept.”Cllr Rob Strachan, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Iain Eadie, cabinet member responsible for the local plan, told the meeting that the new Government formula being proposed to calculate the number of homes needed would see a further 2,000 houses needed on top of those within the document.
But Cllr Smith said members needed to hear what residents had to say on the issue.
“I think Cllr Strachan is missing the point completely about why our council exists and what it is for.
“I get the results go to the inspector, but we have to ask ourselves why we are here – it’s because we care significantly more about our district, the people and the places than some Government planning inspector.
“I remember the Curborough development that we were against. It got voted out at planning, went to appeal, we won the appeal and then the Government inspector said ‘no, they can do it anyway’.
“That’s why I want our council and cabinet to go back to the democratic process and listen to what our local people in our district have to say on the matter.
“Cllr Strachan is too focused on the procedure – I’m more focused on what our people have to say, taking advantage of that consultation and having a proper discussion about it afterwards.”Cllr Andy Smith, Lichfield District Council
“To risk not having a plan is horrifying”
Cllr Strachan insisted going forward without the Local Plan would open the door for developers to target land across Lichfield and Burntwood.
“I don’t love this district any less than Cllr Smith does. My point is that we have no standing in that consultation response as although we administer it it is not our consultation – it is the inspector’s.
“There are already fields in my ward with planing consultants sniffing around them. Curborough and the mess associated with that is in my ward so I’m very, very familiar with the implications of this going wrong.
“To risk not having a plan to protect those residents is horrifying.
“The main modifications stage is the point at which we get to revisit what has happened. That comes after consultation and examination in public.
“The world will have moved on by then. We may be in the new normal. That’s the point we look at this, not now.”Cllr Rob Strachan, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Smith’s proposed amendment to the recommendations for the next step of the Local Plan was defeated in a vote of the cabinet, meaning it will now proceed to the consultation on behalf of the Planning Inspector.