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News Release

Birmingham

Localism Creates North South Divide


Birmingham, July 13, 2011 – Jones Lang LaSalle lead planning director for the Midlands, Peter Leaver, says a clear North/South divide is emerging from the Localism Bill as different local authorities look after their own self interests on the housing agenda.

“In the Midlands, the Localism Bill appears to be more about growth and jobs, “says Peter.  “Whereas in the South East where there is more wealth, the feared Nimbyism and protection of land seems to be the driver.”

Peter cites two recent cases in Burton-upon-Trent and Milton Keynes which demonstrate a clear difference in the dynamics of the regions.  Burton is proposing a new scheme to create 2,500 homes, indicating a clear vision for growth and a desire to create more quality homes to attract higher earners, marking a step change in the their local economy.  In contrast Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale have just axed a 5000 home extension to the city through the greater power given to local authorities through the Localism Bill, the revocation of regional spatial strategies, and local opposition to breaking into Green Belt land.

In addition, there are marked differences in approach within the West Midlands.  “Burton and other boroughs and districts in Staffordshire are pretty much running with what were their original housing quotas from the RSS”, says Peter “Whereas in more affluent areas such as South Worcestershire housing quotas have dropped from 24,500 to 20,000.”

A growing population and shift to more single residence homes will however increase the need for more available housing.

Peter says, “Whilst many developers applied the brakes on housing, pressure is now mounting to create more new homes and a lot more greenfield strategic sites are closer to fruition in the Midlands, offering sustainable urban extensions of 1,500 to 5,000 homes.  Jones Lang LaSalle is involved with a number of strategic mixed use schemes in Bromsgrove, Blaby, Hinckley & Bosworth and Worcester” that are now being processed by the LDF and planning application process.  The new presumption in favour of sustainable development introduced by the Government is acting as a very effective stick in ensuring LPAs process their LDFs much more quickly than hitherto.

However, a different position is emerging with brownfield sites in the larger built up areas.

“In the cities such as Birmingham” says Peter, “I fear the desire to develop brownfield sites, which are harder to work and require a much more imaginative mix, is stemming the creation of new housing.  Many sites need to be cross funded by A1 food retailers and other higher value uses.  There are only so many sites suitable in the city for this.  Greenfield sites on the other hand are much easier to develop”.

The answer says Peter is that house prices need to rise before inner city sites become more palatable.  Given the general affordability of housing and the pace of economic recovery this could take some time. In the meantime, planners and local people will have to be more open minded about Green Belt and strategic site development if they are to meet the growing housing shortage.