Lichfield District Local Plan 2040
The Society's Submission on Housing Policies

The Local Plan Strategy aims to allocate land sufficient to build 13,000 new houses by 2040. That figure includes the allocation of land for 9,000 homes, in addition to land already allocated for 4,000 homes, which have permission or have been built since 2018. Of those totals, 3,300 would be built to the north east of Lichfield. This would be a northern extension to the recent Streethay housing development which, with the recent Curborough permission for 750 dwellings, would result in new housing extending along the whole eastern flank of the City. Additionally, 800 houses are proposed to the west of Fazeley, 75 off Huddlesford Lane, Whittington and 500 off Hay End Lane, Fradley. Sufficient land within these totals would be included to accommodate 2,600 homes to meet the need of the wider housing market (that is Birmingham and the wider West Midlands Conurbation), since the Council has accepted that those needs cannot be accommodated within these councils own areas. The Council has for over 30 years preferred this approach to meeting housing need by continually extending existing "sustainable" settlements, principally Lichfield and Fradley. The proposed new plan would continue that strategy. Indeed, such is the concentration of proposed new housing that Lichfield and Fradley would receive 68% of the total housing allocation (up from 50% in the current plan). This solution could be described as attractive to the Council because of the financial benefits that it brings. In particular, the higher the house prices the more receipts for the Council.

Unfortunately, concentrating development on large sites in high house price areas chokes off inward migration, especially for first-time or younger house buyers. This matters, because Birmingham and the Black Country are relying on neighbouring local authorities like Lichfield to accommodate some of their housing requirement. However, house prices in Lichfield are 40% higher than in Birmingham; so can Birmingham residents afford to move to Lichfield?

What have been the consequences for Lichfield? Some will say that the character of the City is changing. That it is no longer a small, intimate cathedral city, despite the avowed policies of the Council to protect and enhance its image. House prices may well be forcing younger and first time buyers to look elsewhere. The population of the City is indeed ageing, so that the labour pool for local jobs is shrinking, potentially frustrating the Council's desire to enhance the local economy. The Civic Society has consistently argued that the option of a freestanding new settlement, well related to the City, with good transport links, should be explored. This option would allow scope for the comprehensive provision of services such as schools and social facilities. This option, the Council has previously rejected. However, reference is made in the new plan to a possible study into such a solution being commissioned - but only after the new plan new is adopted.

The new local plan will be considered at a public inquiry by a government inspector, probably in the summer of 2022. The Society hope to be invited to attend and give evidence. From our experience of previous local plan inquiries, members should be aware that the inspector is only required to satisfy himself or herself that the plan is deliverable. Their remit is not to identify the best plan; but only one which the inspector is satisfied can be achieved. This general approach causes the Society some concern, along with Civic Societies in other cathedral cities. The impact of large-scale development on a fragile historic city like Lichfield does not appear to weigh heavily in the balance. We have consistently argued at previous inquiries for stronger City Centre conservation policies to counter this development pressure; but to no avail.

The Society's Submission on Housing Policies - Full response [PDF] 1.54 Mbytes.

Roger Hockney
October 2021