A period of up to one hour is allocated to consider the motions on notice. This may only be extended with the agreement of the Council.
The Chairman explained that in respect of Councillor P McDonald’s Motion on Notice and following discussions between all Group Leaders, this has been accepted by the Leader and she would write, as requested and keep Council updated of any response received.
In respect of Councillor H Rone-Clarke’s Motion on Notice, again following discussions with all Group Leaders, it had been suggested and agreed, that the Leader would refer the matter to the new Town Centres Manager for consideration in due course.
In respect of Councillor R Hunter’s Motion on Notice, it was explained that following discussions between Councillor Hunter and the Leader earlier in the day, Councillor Hunter had agreed with the Leader’s suggestion that this matter be referred to the Overview and Scrutiny Board’s Finance and Budget Working Group for further investigation and consideration.
The Chairman confirmed that there was therefore one Motion of Notice for debate this evening, that of Councillor S Colella.
Members considered the following Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor S Colella.
“Following the Government’s White Paper on planning reform The Bromsgrove Alliance calls upon Council to suspend the Greenbelt review until after the White Paper has become planning Law and we know what our Housing allocation will be.
This will demonstrate that members of this council hold the district’s Greenbelt in the highest esteem and demonstrates that the council will not sacrifice the Greenbelt from unnecessary and undue development until the exact details are known.”
Councillor Colella welcomed the opportunity to have a motion debated at Council. He explained that the specific purpose of the motion was to call for Council to suspend the Green Belt review until the Government’s White Paper review had been concluded. This also tied in with the availability of the Birmingham and Black Country housing figures. Councillor Colella believed the risks of not suspending the review were too great, as continuing with it would lead to over development and opening the door to any number of houses would undermine the plan making process, which related to the local area. It would leave the District with a confused outcome and be against the interests of the people of the District. It was believed that the conclusions of such a review would be premature and interest both the Government and neighbouring conurbations, together with landowners and developers. He believed that the review would show that many areas could be developed and so the sum of developable land would be enormous. Councillor Colella understood that a number of other councils had rejected the White Paper, speaking against it publicly. It was further highlighted that land had already been conceded to the Foxlydiate development for Redditch and offered no “kick back” to the Birmingham and Greater Solihull review through the Hearn report. Councillor Colella went on to highlight the process when assessing the Greenbelt and the impact of facing a higher housing target against a smaller housing target. Councillor Colella reminded Members that it was often quoted that Bromsgrove was 95% Green Belt and it was suggested that some could therefore be sacrificed with little impact of the District, but this was not the case and Council needed to know what it was looking at before it moved forward this review, it should be paused now. It must wait for clarity on housing needs before taking any further action.
The motion was proposed by Councillor Colella and seconded by Councillor S Douglas.
During the debate which followed Members discussed a number of areas including:
· The Greenbelt concerns everyone and that market housing will be built with a lost opportunity for affordable housing.
· It was vital to continue with the Greenbelt review as the Council needed something to fall back on and argue against the developers, who would be looking at the situation from a completely different angle to the Council.
Councillor S. Hughes asked to make a small amendment to the motion, to replace the Bromsgrove Alliance with Council, to reflect everyone. She also asked to amend it by adding the Council rejected the new housing need formula. Councillor Colella confirmed he was happy to the removal of the reference to the Bromsgrove Alliance. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that if the mover of the motion was happy with the suggested amendment, a vote was not necessary, and it would become the substantive motion. After discussion it was agreed that the suggested wording be taken as an amendment and this was seconded by Councillor Hunter. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that Council was now debating the amendment.
Councillor Kent spoke to the amendment and commented that as this seemed to go back to what had previously been discussed in respect of the White Paper and he would not therefore be supporting it, as it changed the motion completely.
Councillor S. Baxter spoke on the amendment and advised that she would not be in support of it, as Council had already voted on this in a previous item, which had been lost.
Councillor Hunter spoke in favour of the amendment and said that as he was denied the opportunity to take the specific issue around the new housing need formula, when Councillor McDonald had asked for this to be taken separately. The reason why the amendment was needed was for this reason. There was also a wider issue, which was the understanding of affordable housing, which was something which needed to be understood before any decision was made and he urged Councillors to vote for the amendment.
At this point in the meeting, the Chairman had technical issues and the Vice Chairman took over for a short time.
In summing up the amendment Councillor Hughes urged Members to support it for the reasons which had already been stated. It was confirmed that the amendment was to add the sentence that the Council was rejecting the housing needs formula at the end of the motion.
On being put to the vote the amendment to the Motion was lost.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that Council were now debating Councillor Colella’s substantive motion, with the slight amendment of replacing the Bromsgrove Alliance with Council.
Councillor Douglas spoke in support of the motion and raised some concerns around the new housing plans and reminded Members that 95% of the District was Greenbelt and prime farming land. She also raised concerns around developers not having to make contributions towards schools and medical facilities, that would be needed. Over development would destroy vast areas of green space and make public transport access even more difficult. It would also have an adverse impact on neighbourhood plans. She believed that the housing delivery system was broken and until local housing figures where known it was impossible to allocate land, therefore the Greenbelt review needed to be put on hold until the White Paper became planning law.
Councillor Kent responded to the motion that he understood it to be the suspension of the Greenbelt review until after the White Paper became planning law. He again reiterated that the matter had been through two Strategic Planning Steering Group meetings and Cabinet where there had been ample opportunity for discussion and debate. He made the assumption that it was also referring to the Greenbelt review as part of the local plan making process and he reminded Members that this was one part of a wider set of analysis and evidence that sat behind any local plan. This process had started two years previously and highlighted that the Greenbelt was in fact 91% and not 95% has had been quoted earlier in the meeting. He provided data which showed that effectively 1,700 new homes had taken up 1% of the Greenbelt. Whilst he was in support of protecting the Greenbelt he advised Members that they also needed to understand the practicalities of it. Councillor Kent also reminded Members that the previous Local Plan had taken 10 years to complete, the measures set out in the White Paper would significantly speed up this process and should be welcomed by all. Much work on the current local plan could continue whilst the White Paper was being considered and without the housing needs formula. The time of the review had in fact been beneficial to this Council in its plan making journey as it had not and would not commit to any work which would in effect be wasted. The White Paper which had been debated earlier in the meeting outlined in full the implications on this Council. The Council was continuing to work towards bringing forward the best plan for the people of Bromsgrove. Councillor Kent also highlighted a number of previous occasions when there had been suggestions of delaying the plan making process, through motions and the impact these would have had.
In summing up Councillor Colella thanked Councillor Kent for highlighting the past history that his Group had put forward to the Council which showed the concerns it had in the plan and it would continue to highlight the pitfalls. It was important that the process was not rushed, and the final plan was fit for purpose. It was also noted that with the current plan there was difficulty in fulfilling it, as there were problems with the development land which had been put forward previously. In summary Councillor Colella advised that the motion was not about delaying the review but about planning and ensuring that it was done correctly and without uncertainty. Making the decision to pause the Greenbelt review would simply allow the Council time to understand what was before them and to be able to give it full consideration.
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.
Before the meeting closed Councillor H. Rone-Clarke raised a point of order in respect of his motion and asked the Leader whether it was being passed to the Town Centres Manager with the support of the Council and whether he and other Members would be involved in the process. The Chairman confirmed that the Leader would respond to the point raised outside of the meeting.