14th Jun, 2021

West Midlands Mayor and Coventry Conservative leader demand action over housing proposals

WEST Midlands Mayor Andy Street and leader of Coventry Conservatives Gary Ridley have written to Chris Pincher, the Minister of State for Housing, calling for a rethink on reviewing proposals for Eastern Green and Pickford Green.

The previous plea for the controversial applications to be ‘called in’ was turned down – a move which disappointed both Mr Street and Coun Ridley.

Last week the city council’s cabinet member for housing, Coun David Welsh, criticised the Conservatives and called for an ‘honest discussion’ on Coventry’s housing needs and supply as there were 14,000 people on the housing waiting list.

He said a lot of work was being done on the issues, he wanted to focus on delivering more social housing, more properties for first time buyers which were actually affordable and homes for the ageing population. He said the harsh reality was the city was running out of brownfield sites.

Other issues include the Government’s aim of building 300,000 new homes nationwide and flawed ONS figures which has led to an over-estimation of the number of properties needed in Coventry – that has prompted a call, but as yet no action, on a review of the city’s Local Plan.

The ONS are due to report back to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) watchdog’s report in July.

In their letter, Mr Street and Coun Ridley said: “This area of countryside forms part of the strategically vital ‘Meriden Gap’ between Coventry and Birmingham and has been protected from development by strong planning policy for 70 years.

“Its loss to development would undermine the established pattern of development in the West Midlands Combined Authority area to such an extent that we believed a call-in to be appropriate.”

They argued the application should not be determined in accordance with the adopted development plan because of the inconsistent population projection figures.

They concluded by reiterating their surprise and disappointment that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has not considered it appropriate to call in the applications, especially as the outcome of the ONS’ position in relation to the OSR concerns had still not been decided.

 

Dear Chris

Re: Call-in Request | Eastern Green and Pickford Green, Coventry

Thank you for your letters of 17 May concerning our call-in request relating to Eastern Green

and Pickford Green in Coventry. We note the decision of the Secretary of State not to call-in

these applications, and we write to express our profound disappointment and dismay at these

decisions.

We requested the call-in of these sites for a number of reasons, which we believe comply with

the call-in policy, particularly with regard to the applications having an impact “of more than

local importance.”

We asked the Secretary of State to use his powers to direct Coventry City Council not to issue

planning permission for the above-mentioned developments of these former greenbelt sites.

This area of countryside forms part of the strategically vital ‘Meriden Gap’ between Coventry

and Birmingham and has been protected from development by strong planning policy for 70

years. Its loss to development would undermine the established pattern of development in the

West Midlands Combined Authority area to such an extent that we believed a call-in to be

appropriate.

The reason why the application should be subject to a Direction, under the powers in Article

31 of the Town & Country Planning Development Management Procedure Order 2015 (S.I.

2015 no 595), is that there is a new material consideration which indicates that the application

should not be determined in accordance with the policies in the adopted development plan.

Since the meeting of the City’s Planning Committee which passed the application, the Office

of Statistics Regulation has reviewed evidence about the population projections for Coventry

submitted by CPRE Warwickshire and others to the UK Statistics Authority. These submissions

set out that Coventry’s population projections were higher than could be justified on all the

evidence available and should be reviewed.

The OSR has now reviewed the projections that the Office of National Statistics have been

making for Coventry in the recent Sub-National Population and Household Projections, and

have concluded that “the population estimates for some cities such as Coventry, did seem to

be inconsistent with, and potentially higher than, local evidence would suggest.” Furthermore,

in a letter to CPRE West Midlands, with whom we are working closely, the OSR states “we

feel that ONS did not adequately consider your concerns and more needs to be done to

investigate the root and scale of the issue associated with students and outward migration.

We expect ONS to report back to us with its plans for addressing our findings in July 2021.

Our review recommends that ONS should work with you as it continues to develop new

population estimates through its transformation programme.”

In light of these findings, we are surprised and disappointed that MHCLG have not considered

it appropriate to call-in these applications, nor to consider a deferral of the decision pending

the outcome of the ONS position in how it will address the concerns of the OSR in July 2021.

We would urge you to re-consider these decisions as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely

Andy Street – Mayor of the West Midlands

Councillor Gary Ridley –  Woodlands Ward Councillor

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