Mention “planning policy” in polite company and you can often see eyes glaze over before your very own.
Couple it with “infrastructure requirements” and you may well find yourself alone.
Yet the people turned off by such discussions are also the ones who will turn out in their hundreds to protest when something is proposed that will affect them, in their own back yards.
So, read on: your back yards are under discussion . . .
At long last, Bromsgrove District Council adopted a District Plan at the end of January. You can tell how late it is because this is the plan to run from 2011 until 2030.
It covers all sorts of things, from “sustainability” to what we’re going to do when the majority of the district’s population is in its dotage.
But the question at the very heart of the plan is: where on earth are we going to put all the houses for which the Government says we must find space?
The answer, if you delve into its 132 pages, is that around 4,700 homes will go on sites already identified – many of them filling in the space to the west of Bromsgrove town up to the hard shoulder of the M5.
The remaining 2,300 are likely to be coming to a Green Belt near you. And that doesn’t take into account the homes (perhaps as many as 2,000) that may spill over from Birmingham on to our Green Belt close to the conurbation’s border: i.e., on to our patch.
There is going to be a “review” of the Green Belt, to be completed by 2023, to find space for all these new houses. It will be based on “sustainability”, which means the “larger settlements” with good transport links will be looked at first.
Those named in the plan affecting us are Alvechurch and Barnt Green (including Lickey).
Just as at the turn of the millennium, when “Areas of Development Restraint” were carved out of our village Green Belt, we will see fields primed for the bulldozers – although at least this time they will be given the more honest name of “Development Sites”.
Which brings us to the “infrastructure” and making sure what is promised actually happens. These promises can conveniently be forgotten – such as the safety programme for the busy A441 through Hopwood in the Longbridge area action plan.
The Independent group of councillors at Bromsgrove has successfully fought for a local development forum of cross-party members to monitor the Green Belt review and ensure the appropriate infrastructure is delivered.
This includes pushing the council to embrace the Community Infrastructure Levy, a transparent way of making developers cough up for the infrastructure actually required to support their ventures instead of the current, opaque “106 monies” system which leads to communities coming up with last-minute plans to spend the money on “something” before it disappears into the district’s general coffers.
We wish the Independents well on this mission, for if they are successful and people don’t feel their villages will be bursting at the seams, perhaps the enlargement of our communities might even be seen as something positive.