MP Andrew Mitchell is the latest to question housebuilding proposals.

In the Post he is reported to have described Birmingham Council’s draft development plan,“as a one-sided justification for building on the green belt, rather than an independent assessment of housing need”. Many will agree with him that, “Not one blade of grass should be built on until all the other alternatives – brownfield sites in Birmingham and brownfield solutions across the West Midlands – have been properly explored.” There are some facts & figures on the council website.

Simon Jenkins agrees, “Britain today has thousands of acres of land awaiting development. Drive (or, more revealingly, fly) across middle England and everywhere you see post-industrial brownfield sites lying vacant, more, probably, than ever in history. . .

Other questions

1. How many houses are really needed? Should the city just cater for the 30,000 people on housing list? (Note that Mr Mitchell demanded greater information on population projections, issued by the Office of National Statistics, on which the housing demand was based).

Cllr Tahir Ali (employment and development) says that an availability report found capacity for only 43,000 homes within existing built up area – isn’t that more than enough?

2. A city editor asked by email: “Why are B’ham City Council planning to eat into Green Belt when there is so much brown stuff left to develop?” Adding:

Is it that BCC have run out of land they own to build on?
Is it that BCC could allow building but developers are unwilling to build?
Is it that BCC planning won’t allow developers to build?

Paul Dale answers that the city council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment sought the views of landowners and developers:

“(Chamberlain Files) Builders are rejecting polluted, expensive-to-clean, brownfield, former industrial land in favour of the leafy lanes on Birmingham’s borders with Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

“It was ever thus, as the city council’s SHLAA proves. This statutory document drawn up to guide the Government on future development plans involved asking land owners and developers for their views on the best sites for new build. As a result, 580 hectares of green belt covering 17 separate areas were identified . . .”

And earlier warned:

Birmingham heads a list of West Midlands cities and towns likely to be increasingly at risk of acute flooding over the next 20 years. A study, by consultants Halcrow,  an in-depth analysis for the Regional Assembly, traced close links between floodplains and housing development sites earmarked in the Regional Spatial Strategy. Yet Birmingham is under pressure to build as many as 60,600 new homes by 2026.

Simon Jenkins points out available resources:

“There are up to 400,000 houses empty and the same number of building plots lying idle with permission granted for building. High street premises are vacant because of restrictions on use”.

Next: Social housing advocated in the Council Chamber by Councillor Clancy