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