BATTLE lines are being drawn over a document which will decide development in the borough for the coming decade.
Solihull’s draft Local Plan is to be reviewed at a meeting this evening (October 1), where the council’s cabinet will fire the gun on a six-week consultation ahead of being sent for independent review.
But opposition groups say the council has left little time to make considered decision over new developments.
Councillor Max McLoughlin (Shirley South), the Green Party spokesman on planning, is pressing for more time to listen to residents on the huge draft plan published last week.
However council leaders are sticking to a statutory minimum consultation of six weeks.
Coun McLoughlin said: “The Local Plan, described as “one of the most important strategies the Council produces” needs longer than six weeks for comments.
“The pandemic is making it much harder to inform people that there are more than 300 pages of changes coming to Solihull.”
And he says proposals for huge developments around the new HS2 Interchange Station and in Solihull town centre are missing from the draft.
Critics say the minimum consultation period risks a ‘rubber-stamp’ approach by the council – an approach it has fallen foul of before.
The previous Local Plan was overturned in a High Court challenge by housing developers Gallagher Estates Ltd and Lioncourt Homes Ltd.
But planning portfolio holder Councillor Andy Mackiewicz says he views this final consultation as a ‘legal test.’
He said: “Our Local Plan review is now nearing its conclusion. This final consultation that cabinet is being asked to approve is simply to test whether people think the plan
is sound and legally compliant.
“Over the past years we have undertaken a number of consultations, workshops and engagement events, above and beyond what is required.
“I am confident it will create a sustainable blueprint that reflects the climate change actions we must pursue for the future development of the borough.”
A spokeswoman for Solihull Council said:“If cabinet approves the plan, it will be considered at a full council meeting on October 6. If approved, the draft submission plan will then be published for a statutory period of six weeks.
“Interested parties will be invited to make representations relating to the soundness and legal compliance of the plan.
“These representations will then form the focus of the ‘Examination in Public’ (EiP) overseen by a nominated Inspector appointed on behalf of the Secretary of State.
“If the plan is found to be sound and legally compliant, the Council will then be allowed to adopt the plan.”
Given the timescale, across Solihull opposition is growing to Solihull’s draft Local Plan, which covers the period 2030 to 2036.
In Balsall Common the village will see more than 2,000 homes built of the expected 15,000 houses provided for in the plan.
Among these are 120 opposite the historic Berkswell Windmill on a site of ecological importance.