Four Ashes housing development proposal

PLANNING APPLICATION 2011/1914 – Land at Four Ashes

The Society has written to Gary Palmer, Head of Design and Development at Solihull MBC in respect of this application.

Dear Mr Palmer,

Land at Four Ashes

On behalf of The Knowle Society I wish to make the following comments on this application. Although the land in question is not within the Knowle ward and so we would not normally comment on an application at this location, this one will have an impact on Knowle so we feel bound to comment on it.

The principle of the development

We have had the opportunity of discussions with those involved in the development, for which we are grateful.

The land in question is currently allocated as a long-term housing site in the UDP and is due to be reallocated when the draft Local Plan is ratified. It is our view that the application should not be considered until the status of the land is confirmed. We will be objecting to the current intention in the draft Local Plan of allocating the land for development in Phase 1 as it would exacerbate the problems in the area with traffic and the provision of public services, especially schooling. Consideration of this application now would remove our right to have this allocation in the Local Plan reconsidered.

The detail of the design

We are pleased to see that the design includes a significant allocation of ‘affordable’ housing. As we have made clear before, including in our responses to the draft Local Plan and in a meeting with John Pitcher, we are in favour of increasing the number of affordable houses provided in the area. However we are strongly in favour of a mix of arrangements for enabling affordability. We believe that there is a real need for houses to be provided under some form of mixed ownership system, whereby the purchase price is reduced and the differential with the ‘real’ value is retained in perpetuity. We believe that this application would benefit from such a method of enabling affordability.

While we have no comment on the general layout of the site, we are very concerned by the arrangement that places nine of the fifteen affordable houses in one block at the south (the far end) of the site. Placing so many together must affect the ambience of this part of the site. The presence of a blind end to the road (Lane 2) at this end of the site, where it abuts the rest of the long-term housing site would suggest that it could continue when the rest of the site is developed in due course. The temptation would then be to site another batch of affordable housing alongside, exacerbating the situation. We request reconsideration of the positioning of the nine affordable houses so they are more spread out within the site in a ’pepper-pot’ fashion.

Leighton Jones
Chairman, Planning Committee, The Knowle Society

Matters discussed by the Trustee Directors in January 2012

1. No further developments were reported in the Kimberley/Waitrose planning application which is expected to be heard by Solihull Council in February. In the meantime the Society will be meeting with the Council to discuss Conservation Area concerns in respect of the application.

2. Arrangements were tabled for the four events celebrating the Society’s Jubilee year. It was agreed in particular that the ‘Tea Party’ with birthday cake to be held in the Village Hall would be thrown open to the whole community, whether members of the Society or not. It was noted that the Any Question? broadcast was likely to be over-subscribed.

3. It was agreed to continue exploring the possibility of a full-colour newsletter – perhaps using a design and print service, though there were reservations about taking that route. The change could be made coincident with appointing a new editor, for which volunteers would be sought.

4. It was agreed to form a new committee (possibly to be named ‘Membership Services’) which would pull together the five member-related activities of Membership, Newsletter, Distribution, Website and Publicity. The need for greater coordination of these activities was recognised as the Society continues to respond to changes in communication and technology.

5. Although the Society has adequate funds at present it is recognised that is growing role in community events (such as the Christmas lights) and developments in the newsletter may cause regular expenditure to exceed income and that the subscriptions which have remained unchanged for many years, could require review.

6. Knowle Green Community Project – It was reported that there was possible private interest being expressed in developing this block. The Society would look further into this report but also noted that the block was actually owned by the Council.

7. Diana Holl-Allen representing the Knowle Councillors assured the meeting that the Local Development Framework would be seeking a lot of input from the community; she also stressed that if the community does not respond then decisions will be imposed upon it. She also reported that Council Tax is to be frozen for the next year and that the cemetery at Widney Manor is to be expanded.

8. Knowle Library – it was reported that the relationship with the library service over our Saturday afternoon opening arrangements is becoming increasingly positive and further developments are anticipated. Some 700 people have used this facility in which a 70% were children.

9. Christmas Lights – the condition and quantity of the remaining tree lights was such that it was agreed that enquiries would be made about the purchase of new LED lights.

10. One much valued committee member resignation was noted and two new ones were approved.

11. The future of the former bypass land and the lack of a potential walking link between Longdon Road and this land; the Society’s continued interest in being willing to assist with the Streamside Trust and the difficulty in selecting a suitable place for planting of a Jubilee tree in the autumn land was discussed. Solihull Council had expressed its willingness to cooperate in the planting a tree.

Society’s Response to the Waitrose/Kimberley Proposals – update

Following the well supported meetings on these proposals which were held on 3 & 4 November 2011, the Society has made an initial response dealing with what people said is the most concerning aspect of the proposals, the lack of parking. The Society’s analysis (attached) of the parking provision shows that, even taking into account all the developments, the parking provision will be even worse than at present if the plans go ahead.

St John’s Close – Initial response to SMBC _car parking provision_2

Analysing the public’s response forms on the Kimberley planning applications

We need some temporary help! Can you use your skills and a few hours of spare time to help the Society by analysing the response forms that people are completing with their comments on the latest planning application? [Help now offered!]

If you are comfortable using Microsoft Excel (or its Open Office equivalent) at a fairly basic level, we would appreciate your help through to the middle of November. An existing template is available to help along the task. We anticipate receiving around 200 forms (we already have about 100) which will continue to come in until the closing date of 11th November. Please email ‘planning’ at the usual email address if you can offer help. We look forward to hearing from you.

PS – We are pleased to say that a member has kindly come forward and offered help and is hard at work on the job! (14 Nov 2011)