It’s a a well-rehearsed figure, and I’m sure we all know it by heart now, but Birmingham needs approximately 84,000 new homes between 2011 and 2031. A mammoth task made all the harder by a lack of suitable land within its boundaries. So far, I’m not announcing anything new.
However, analysis by the Snapdragon team has started to measure the rate at which new housing is being approved by Birmingham Council – and it doesn’t make great reading.
In the last year only around 2,300 new homes were approved by the City’s planning committee, following our team’s review of decisions since June 2016.
If replicated across the remainder of the Local Plan period around 32,000 new homes would be granted permission – well short of the number that should be accommodated within Birmingham’s boundaries, and would leave the city short of its overall housing target.
Obviously, this is not the whole story. Some significant sites are yet to come forward and some schemes already approved are yet to be built out, not to mention permissions granted through appeal. However, these figures show the Council’s ambition to build more homes has not yet begun to yield the desired results.
Nevertheless, the Planning Committee appear to be playing its part. Most residential schemes are approved and generally the Committee toes the line when presented with an officer’s recommendation.
There can be little blame laid at their feet, no matter the usual criticisms levelled at politicians.
Indeed, it’s a similar story in Coventry where around 25,000 new homes need to be delivered. Since June 2016, the Council’s Planning Committee have only permitted around 550 houses. If replicated across the Plan period around 7,500 new homes would be permitted in the city, again falling well short.
Given this, in the coming years significantly more homes will need to be permitted to meet targets and this will put increasing pressure on a small handful of councillors. So far, planning committees in the West Midlands have been responding positively to plans put in front of them and this will need to continue if targets are to be met.
However, their resolve will be tested with several major Green Belt applications set to be discussed and voted on – with opposition already gearing up to fight even the smallest encroachment.
As the scale of development increases it may be more difficult for planning committees across the region to remain politically neutral.
The appeals process may also become risky for developers. With Parliament finely balanced, the Conservative’s political adherence to Green Belt policy looks likely to filter into DCLG decision making – particularly in traditional Tory heartlands when Westminster votes need to be secured.
How much might Andrew Mitchell’s vote now be worth in Sutton Coldfield, or Julian Knight’s in Solihull?
In this climate, achieving planning permission at the first time of asking seems even more important, and that means convincing councillors, communities and the local MP that a development is necessary, important and right for the area.
The Snapdragon team regularly run CPDs for property professionals on ways to maximise success at a Planning Committee by engaging with stakeholders to promote development, attract support and manage opposition. If you are interested in finding out more then please get in touch and we can discuss these in more detail.