Even though it’s summer and we usually give the bees in our bonnet a rest for a month or two, there’s one that just keeps buzzing around our head . . . and it is all to do with that fear we have of a looming Barntchurch.
You may remember, tucked away in our column a couple of months ago (while we were nudging your memories about what our district councillors had been voting for or against over the previous four years), we’d discovered the report that first raised the spectre of up to 15,000 new homes in our Green Belt had been given pride of place online alongside Bromsgrove District Council’s official planning policies.
On a page with just seven entries, under the title “Planning Policies” and the sub-title “Here are the planning policies that help to guide development in Bromsgrove District”, sat the Greater Birmingham Housing Market area – Strategic Growth Study.
Bromsgrove’s planning department even sounded proud of it, adding: “Presenting the 2018 Greater Birmingham and Black Country Housing Market Area (BGGCHMA) Strategic Growth Study.”
It was given the same billing as Bromsgrove’s Local Development Plan, the approved documents that form the district’s planning policy.
And yet it is not policy, it is not even accepted as anything more than a desktop study, concocted from afar with a number of obvious flaws (so much so that one development expert half-joked to us that it might have been done by the work experience kid).
In fact, if you click on the link, for it is still there, one of the first things you will see is a statement by the former leader of the council saying: “It cannot be stressed strongly enough the Council has not accepted the findings of the study.”
So what is it doing there, among the actual planning policies of the council and reached by clicking on “Planning Policies” on the www.bromsgrove.gov.uk landing page?
We contacted the planning officers to ask and their response was to edit the website, adding “and Other Planning Information” to the listing page title, but leaving the report where it was. When we pointed out this was still misleading, we were told there was “no value in debating where it could go any further”.
In a world increasingly confounded by online “fake news”, where a desktop study could become a ruinous reality on our green fields, the people living in Bromsgrove district deserve better protection against rampant development than the apparent welcome mat laid out by our planning officers.
We urge the new councillors representing our villages to make a priority of fighting to expunge this development fantasy from our council’s “planning policies”.