Ian Dove QC and Nadia Sharif successful for Solihull MBC in their Local Plan

Fri, 13 Dec 2013

The Inspector corrected the errors that had arisen and made the amendments to the report where it was appropriate and has now published the report. The Council can now adapt the document at its discretion.

The report by the Inspector on the assessment of the Solihull Local Plan considered whether the preparation of the plan had complied with the Duty to Co-operate, recognising that there is no scope to remedy any failure in this regard. It then considered whether the local plan was sound and compliant with the legal requirements. The national Planning Policy Framework confirms that to be sound, a Local Plan should be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

Assessment of the Duty to Co-operate

Section 20(5)(c) of the 2004 Act requires the Inspector to consider whether the Council has complied with any duty imposed on them by s33A of the Act in relation to the Plan’s preparation. This requires SMBC to co-operate in maximizing the effectiveness of plan-making, and to engage constructively, actively and on an on-going basis with neighboring planning authorities and prescribed bodies when preparing development plan documents with regard to a strategic matter.

Having considered all the evidence, statements and discussions at the hearing sessions, the Inspectors concluded firstly, that the Duty to Co-operate is engaged, due to the need to consider identifying cross-boundary strategic matters, including housing. Secondly, that the Council has meet the requirements of that duty in terms of the process of co-operating and engaging with the relevant bodies, and maximizing the effectiveness of the plan making process. And thirdly, although the most recent outcome of that co-operation has some uncertainty, particularly in meeting future housing needs of Birmingham, Solihull has identified and addressed all the strategic matters and requirements which its needs to meet at this current time. The legal requirements of the Duty to Co-operate have therefore been met.

Housing

The Inspector said that in terms of the overall housing requirement, SMBC had taken a consistent and pragmatic approach, having produced a positively prepared and effective plan, secondly based on, and consistent with, the most recent independent assessment of cross-boundary housing requirements undertaken for the former WMRSS phase revision, and backed up with more up-to-date, robust and reliable evidence, projections and studies. The commitment to review the SLP if it becomes necessary to address the issues of Birmingham’s shortfall in future housing provisions will ensure that cross-boundary housing issues are addressed when the results of these studies are finalised, reflecting the guidance in NPPF. The commitment to early review of the SHMA will ensure that Solihull’s housing needs are kept up-to date, including reviewing the SLP, if necessary.

The Inspector said that taking account of all the evidence and having examined all the elements that go into making an objective assessment of housing requirements, a total level of 11,000 dwellings or 500 dwellings/year represents an effective, justified and soundly based figure which would meet the current identified housing needs of the district over the plan period and, with the agreed amendments, is consistent with the overall requirements of the national policy in the NPPF.

In regards to the Five-year housing land supply issue the Inspector found that currently, the SMBC was unable to demonstrate a 5-year supply of housing land, but when the SLP is adopted, this situation will be rectified, with the proposed site allocations and provisions in NSRA and Solihull town centre. SMBC confirmed that an extra 5% of the provision will be added to the 5-year supply, to reflect the NPPF buffer, which will help boost housing supply early the plan period. A proposed amendment confirmed that the current 5-year housing land requirement and deliverable land supply (including the 5% buffer), and updates the housing trajectory, ensuring that the SLP is accurate and effective. Reference to the possibility of a 20% buffer is unnecessary, since evidence confirms that Solihull does not have a persistent record of under-delivery of housing compared with the relevant targets, although the high level of demolitions in recent years has depressed the net increase in new dwellings.

Consequently, the Inspector concluded that the housing strategy of the SLP is soundly based, effective, deliverable, justified and appropriate for Solihull in terms of the overall housing provision and the supply of housing land, including the site allocations, 5-year supply, allowance for windfalls, and phasing and capacity of housing sites.

Overall conclusions

The submitted plan has a number of deficiencies in relation to soundness and legal compliance for the reasons set out above, which means that I recommend non-adoption of it as submitted, in accordance with Section 20(7A) of the Act. These deficiencies have been explored in the main issues set out above.

The Council has requested me to recommend Main Modifications to make the plan sound and legally compliant and capable of adoption. I conclude that with the recommended Main Modifications set out in the Appendix, the Solihull Local Plan satisfies the requirements if section 20(5) if the 2004 Act and meets the criteria for Soundness in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Please click here to view the profiles of Ian Dove QC and Nadia Sharif

A copy of the report can be downloaded below.

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