Plans which would allow more than 6,000 homes to go up across Wyre Forest – including more than 2,800 on the Green Belt – have been criticised for including too few “affordable” options.
A new village at Lea Castle, near Cookley, and an extended new estate east of Kidderminster would provide the bulk of the new housing, according to the provisional Local Plan for Wyre Forest.
The Plan will form the blueprint for the development of Kidderminster, Stourport, Bewdley and surrounding villages for the next 20 years.
A breakdown of the homes plans proposed reveals:
44% (2,798) of the 6,360 homes would be on Green Belt
49% (3,116) of the 6,360 homes would be on Brownfield Sites – usually within town centres or built up areas, and often referred to as ‘infill’ developments.
The council will also be setting a target for developers to include 25% affordable homes (down from the existing 30%).
Assuming every housing development qualifies for this target (smaller schemes of fewer than 10 homes would be exempt) that would allow for a maximum of 1,590 “affordable homes” (meaning homes that were ‘below market value’ or were available for rent at below market rent).
The proposals marks a dramatic detour from the Conservative-led council’s avowed intent to protect the Green Belt; it has distinct planning policy to only allow for new building “in very special circumstances”. Council leaders say they have no choice but to open up greenfield and Green Belt sites for homes.
Ahead of a final residents’ consultation exercise, which starts next week, members of Wyre Forest District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee met (Thursday October 25) to consider the next stage of the planning process.
Councillor Nigel Knowles, Labour group leader, voiced his dismay that developers would only be asked to include 25% of affordable homes in any development of 10 or more houses – down from the current rate of 30%.
The council’s head of strategic growth, Kate Bailey, told councillors this reduced rate had been recommended as a viable target for the council to demand, based on advice from development consultants.
But this explanation didn’t find favour with Councillor Knowles, who responded: “This is a golden opportunity for the council – there is a real affordable housing need in our district, with 3-4,000 households on the housing waiting list. One way to meet need, other than through building more social housing, is to get the affordable housing number right. This is not right. It’s rubbish and is not acceptable.”
Councillor Shazu Miah said: “I am baffled why we have allowed the affordable housing proportion to be reduced. Concerns about the need for more affordable housing has dominated our discussions for months, and here we are being asked to approve a reduction in affordability.
“I don’t understand the rationale – what we ought to say to developers is that if you want to build here, this is what we expect, rather than them telling us what they want.”
Their comments were echoed by Councillor Fran Oborski, who said she was really concerned about the reduced rate. “This makes us much less ambitious than other councils about affordability- some have gone up to 40%. it shows a real paucity of ambition when we have over 3,000 applications on our social housing list. We are a low wage area, and 20% of local families cannot even afford social renting locally without housing benefit. That’s a huge proportion of this community unable to afford to buy.”
The committee voted to commend the pre-submission plan for approval by the council’s Conservative leadership.
Consultation formally starts next Thursday November 1, and will include drop in sessions across the district for a fortnight from November 16 – 30.
Main features of the plan are:
- 1,400 home village including primary school, health services, sports pitches and community orchard and allotments at Lea Castle, opposite Cookley, including significant areas of Green Belt land
- 1,400 homes on a swathe of land east of Kidderminster (running parallel with Husum Way down to Comberton Road)
A series of developments at sites around Kidderminster, including:
- the former Glades site and Bromsgrove Street car park;
- further development around Wyre Forest Leisure Centre at Silverwoods, off Stourport Road;
- the Churchfields development near Horsefair;
- two sites in Mill Street (BT building and scrubland at the bottom of the street);
- Kidderminster Fire Station and Kidderminster Ambulance Station;
- former Victoria sportsground;
- the timber yard in Park Lane;
- land north of Bernie Crossland Walk;
- Limekiln bridge in Clensmore Street;
- former schools Sladen, Stourminster. Lea Street and Sion Hill;
- Severn Grove Shops in Rifle Range;
- Naylor’s Field in Sutton Park Rise;
- land at rear of Zortech Avenue;
- land opposite Easter Park;
- farm land at Low Habberley;
- infill land on Stourbridge Road;
- Rock Works;
- Chester Road South service station;
- two pieces of land in Green Street;
- a parcel of land in Sutton Park Road;
- a parcel of land in Hoobrook;
- the vehicle testing station in Worcester Road;
- former Burlish Golf Course clubhouse;
- two parcels of land in Stourbridge Road.
In Stourport the recommended sites are in the following locations: Cheapside; land at Pearl Lane; land north of Wilden industrial estate; Swan Hotel and working men’s club; Queen’s Road shops; Yew Tree Walk; former Carpets of Worth; land west of former school, Coniston Crescent; County Buildings; Steatite Way; Baldwin Road; Worcester Road car sales; Sandy Lane, Titton; land adjacent to Rock Tavern, Wilden Lane; Firs Yard, Wilden Lane; Parson’s Chain.
In Bewdley the key development sites are at Catchem’s End; Bewdley Fire Station; Stourport Road Triangle; and land south of Habberley Road.
In rural Wyre Forest, additional sites are proposed at Caunsall (Caunsall Road, and Rock Tavern car park); Red Lion car park close to Shatterford; Fold Farm, Chaddesley Corbett; allotments in Upper Arley; Bellman’s Cross, Shatterford; Alton Nurseries, Long Bank, Bewdley; and Lem Hill Nurseries, Far Forest.
The council carried out a huge consultation last summer, receiving more than 5,000 responses. After reviewing and considering those, the council developed the Pre-submission Plan, which sets out where it thinks new homes should be built.
Previous proposals for a new major housing development adjacent to Spennells in Kidderminster and a number of other sites across the district are not being progressed further.
Councillor Ian Hardiman, Wyre Forest District Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, Health and Wellbeing said: “We know how important the countryside and rural character of the district is. In an ideal world we would only ever look to develop on brown field land, but we have reached a stage where there are not enough sites available to meet the demand for new homes needed for our families in the future. The Government’s method of calculating housing need means that over 5,500 houses need to be built in the period from 2016 to 2036.
“While we have had no option but to include sites in the Green Belt, we are determined that not one more house will be built on the Green Belt than is necessary.”
The Local Plan and information on how to submit comments will be available at www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/localplanreview from Thursday 1 November.
The consultation will be the last chance for people to have their say before the council submits the Plan to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government who will appoint an independent planning inspector to examine the plan.