The Village delves into the housing study to see why this area is under threat and what ‘Barntchurch’ would really mean.
While the “Greater Birmingham” study doesn’t identify specific locations for potential “New Settlements”, a number of clues to the consultants’ thinking are contained within it.
“New Settlement 6”, the one of concern to us, is somewhere “between Birmingham and Bromsgrove/Redditch”, but there is more detail contained elsewhere in the study. In a table looking at the highways and utilities upgrades that would be required in the “areas of search” it suggests:
- New single carriageway to the west to connect with B4096 at new junction
- New dual carriageway to the east to connect with the A441 with a new junction at Redditch Road
- Improvements to existing roads either side of the new junctions (around 4km of improvement)
- New bridge over rail line may be required to the east.
The Village has contacted GL Hearn to see if they can guide us, but in the absence of a response by the time we went to press, we would guess from this highway description that the 10,000–15,000 new homes would fill the Green Belt fields between Barnt Green, Alvechurch and Hopwood villages.
At the same time, unless the suggested area involves going further north towards the Birmingham border, wiping out any Green Belt separation from Birmingham, the reference to a new road “to west to connect with B4096” suggests the area being considered includes the fields between Alvechurch and Blackwell (and Tutnall), and possibly even further south, as well.
(Village reader Jim Rowan has provided his guess of where the homes would fit in a diagram published in Village Views.)
There are a number of other specific pieces of information relating to this area within the study. For example, in the table mentioned above, the consultants identify the sewage treatment works (STW) south of Alvechurch as the closest “of relatively significant size”, although “it is considered that significant reinforcement would be required, given that the current STW serves around 4,000 dwellings”.
Transport links, particularly rail, appear to be the main magnet drawing the consultants’ attention to this area.
In a section describing “Location NS6”, the study states: “The rail corridors between Birmingham and Bromsgrove and Birmingham and Redditch (shared until Barnt Green), whilst already containing some large villages, could, in principle, be the focus for extensive development, focused on public transport provision.”
It also recognises some disadvantages to development in this area, particularly to do with the space available and the effect it would have on land playing a particularly significant Green Belt role.
“Whether there is sufficient space for a development of this scale is uncertain,” it says, adding: “It is noted that parts of these corridors, particularly to the north around Barnt Green, are identified as making a Principal Contribution to Green Belt purposes, being part of the separation of Birmingham and Bromsgrove.”
Returning to the advantages of this area, the study says it “is only constrained by small parcels of Ancient Woodland. Aside from this, there are no nationally significant constraints.
“The area is situated on a rail corridor (Worcester-Birmingham) with stations nearby in Alvechurch (Red Lion [sic]) and Barnt Green (from Redditch). The area is also in close proximity to the M42.”
Elsewhere, the study notes: “The area is within 5km of the conurbation but beyond 2.5km and will therefore help to meet a relatively significant proportion of the need.”
But, again, it recognises it is “wholly within an area making a Principal Contribution to Green Belt purposes”.
The area is said to be “around 1km to the nearest train station with a journey time of 35 minutes to Birmingham New Street”, which presumably means Alvechurch as the journey time from Barnt Green is less than 30 minutes.
The location would also need “more modest highways infrastructure” relative to others looked at, and has “reasonably strong market and residential values”, which is seen as a positive.
The consultancy team concludes that “the areas of search for new settlements which perform strongest, and we recommend should be taken forward for further assessment, are: South of Birmingham; Between Birmingham and Bromsgrove; Around Shenstone; Around Balsall Common.”
This is in spite of recognising that the latter three suggestions fall in locations identified as making a “principle contribution to Green Belt”.
The total area of “Barntchurch Newtown” would be much greater than that required for 10,000–15,000 homes. The consultants assume there would also be sufficient employment land to “meet aspiration of self-containment” as well as land for schools, health care practices, a “town centre” of shops, “community/cultural activities”, and “recreational and sporting facilities (including a swimming pool)”.
Finally, the study assumes “delivery of comprehensive green infrastructure within the new settlement”. There is no explanation of what this might be, although it may just mean leaving some of the green fields as they find them.