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Why Birmingham Planners Are On A Magical Mystery Tour Ending In 2025

Birmingham's seat of power: The Council House

Some journeys are well-organised, others chaotic. If the map changes halfway through, you will probably get lost.

This is the unhappy dilemma now facing the planners whose job it is to plot the future of England's second city.

Birmingham City Council is to replace its 2017 development plan. But, thanks to looming changes in the law in England, it has no idea what it will need to say.

The city council has decided to rewrite the plan after a review of changes to planning law and its own priorities since the current Birmingham Development Plan was published in 2017.

But as a report to the council’s ruling cabinet confesses, proposals for new planning laws mean it cannot be sure of completing the new plan by its 2025 deadline, nor what rules it must enact.

The best guess is it will mean more housing, and given the failure so far, probably more affordable housing.

Consultation on options for the new plan is due next summer, with a second round of consultation on preferred options in summer 2023. The journey ends with the plan's official adoption in 2025.

However, the plan-writing process is complicated by the publication of the government's controversial English planning white paperPlanning for the Future, and a new environmental law due to be introduced later this year. The law will require developers to secure biodiversity net gain for all new developments and councils to prepare local nature recovery strategies. These new laws will come into force during the consultation process.

The council already has a tough job creating policies that can work. Documents published as part of the review process show the city has largely failed to meet its target for affordable housing.

So far only 54% of the affordable housing target has been met, with an under-delivery of 3,434 dwellings. Expressed as a proportion of the total dwellings completed, affordable dwellings comprised 18% of new housing completions between 2011/12 and 2019/20. The plan had been that 38% of new housing should be affordable, amounting to 19,400 homes by 2031.

In the same period, the total value of Section 106 clauses containing an affordable housing commuted sum received has been £11M.

“What is clear is the Government is committed to the target of building 300,000 new homes a year, which is reflected in the new standard method for calculating housing need," the report to councillors said.

"This places a 35% uplift on the housing number of the top 20 largest English cities, which includes Birmingham, increasing the city’s housing need number considerably when compared to the current BDP housing requirement. The new plan will therefore need to respond to increased housing need, economic development needs, supporting infrastructure requirements.”

The 2017 Birmingham Development Plan proposes 51,100 new homes by 2031, and two major employment sites with a combined size of 108 acres, along with the 168-acre Peddimore site just outside the city boundary, now being developed in partnership with IM Properties.

But the plan also included no less than 3.8M SF of new retail development,  most of which has already been delivered or soon will be. The same goes for provision for the 2017 plan's mandate for 8M SF of new office development.