Commenting on the consultation by Lichfield District Council for 800 new homes in Streethay, Michael Fabricant agrees with local residents. He says: "While this is not such a damaging development as the now defunct eco-town at Fradley with many thousand proposed homes, the size of Streethay would mean that 800 new homes would be just too much for Streethay to sustain. Like the development being considered for Hammerwich, I would ask the Council to think again. They are being forced by directives from Birmingham and Whitehall in the shape of the so called ‘Regional Spatial Strategy’ to provide an additional 8,000 new homes between 2006 and 2026.
“That would change the face of Lichfield for ever. But those directives could be scrapped after the next election.
“Conservative policy has been evolving over the years and, to be honest, has not been particularly important while the Labour Government has remained popular. But with a General Election facing us in the next 12 months and with polling suggesting a possible change of Government, Conservative policies now have more relevance.
“In Government, Conservatives will revoke all regional spatial strategies including the regional building targets of 8,000 new dwellings in Lichfield. If a regional spatial strategy has already been implemented, a Conservative Government will allow councils to revise, in whole or in part, their existing local development frameworks to undo the changes that regional spatial strategies have forced upon them.
“Instead, all non-economic functions of regional quangos like the West Midlands Regional Assembly and regional development agencies including Advantage West Midlands will be immediately given to local authorities.
“Lichfield District Council will then be empowered to set its own targets.
“In the event that the Conservatives are elected in 2010, Lichfield will not necessarily have to go through with either the Streethay or Hammerwich developments or to the same scale, because the Council will no longer have a regional spatial strategy and regional building targets to satisfy.
“That is not to say that new homes will not be built. They are needed. But they won’t have to be in the concentrations that are currently being explored. Local councillors will have full say over the number and location of new housing developments.
“My advice to Lichfield District Council is to stall on any future development. Make no irrevocable decisions until after the result of the General Election is known. All could change!”
Lichfield District Council (LDC) officials have advised Michael Fabricant: ‘LDC have to find the levels of housing and employment growth set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy. Accordingly, the Council have a number of issues to consider including identifying our most sustainable locations, opportunities and constraints to growth, and the need to provide not just housing but related employment and a range of social and community facilities.
‘In the case of Lichfield City, Streethay is recognised as one of the most sustainable locations to accommodate growth, being the main centre in Lichfield District and one that has a range of existing infrastructure. At the same time it is acknowledged that outward expansion of the city has to be carefully appraised and then if confirmed, managed. LDC are looking at two main directions of growth – south of the city and to the north east (Streethay). The scales and directions of growth reflect the above considerations complemented by detailed assessments of the ability of the locations to assimilate development into their surroundings.
‘LDC are aware of local concern about the scale of development being proposed at Streethay amongst other areas, for example to the south of the City and at Burntwood. However, the fact remains that LDC have to find the levels of housing and employment growth set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy, the figures themselves maybe subject to change and, if so, are unlikely to be reduced, and finally it is not good enough to seek to prevent development occurring in a given location without considering the implications for not just that location alone but the whole of the District. Any reduction in development means additional housing having to be found elsewhere. What the Council is seeking to do is promote a sustainable development strategy which suitably reflects the needs and aspirations of the whole of the District. Whether LDC have got it right will only become clear when that strategy is formalised later this year and put before an Independent Inspector for testing.’