|The Staffordshire Structure Plan - 1996 to 2011|
The Society has conveyed in the last few days its formal observations on the Review Consultation Paper to the County Council. With most of the attention of the press being devoted to the large scale housing development at Fradley, the proposals for Lichfield itself have attracted little written comment, For some time, the Society has been expressing its concern that Lichfield has reached its point of optimum growth and that any further expansion would have a serious detrimental effect on its historic and environmental character and would adversely damage the rural setting of the City which contributes so much to that character.
To be welcomed therefore, is the acknowledgement in the Plan that the circumstances of Lichfield warrant special consideration and that accordingly there is not assumed to be any significant allocation of land for housing other than those contained in the Local Plan for the period to 2001 together with the additional post 2001 development at Walsall Road [250 dwellings] and possibly land at Berryfields Farm [400 dwellings] which has been removed from the Green belt and has been accorded the status of an Area of Development Restraint.
The Society recognises that, but for its special character, Lichfield would be a natural and attractive location for further housing and employment growth. A decision to limit development in the City means that an alternative location or locations have to be found to accommodate that growth which otherwise might have gone to Lichfield. In the past the Society has supported the idea of a new settlement as a means of minimising the incremental extension of existing towns and villages in the District. The County Council are proposing such a settlement at Fradley to accommodate 2000 dwellings to 2011 and a further 1000 beyond that date.
There are sound planning reasons for selecting this location. It is outside the statutory green Belt. It contains a large 'brownfield' site at the former airfield which is already committed to business and industrial development. The provision of housing in close proximity to this industrial area will create an opportunity to minimise car borne journeys to work. Fradley is also situated adjacent to a main transport corridor along the A38 and there exists a railway line between Lichfield and Burton-on-Trent which has the potential of being reopened for passenger services.
There are reservations about the proposal. The scale of the housing involved will consume a substantial area of rural agricultural land and will drastically transform the character and setting of the existing village, although that would also be an inevitable consequence of industrial expansion in the locality. For several years the residents of the new settlement would have to rely heavily on the local services provided in Lichfield - shops, schools, offices, health facilities, etc. - and, without improvements in public transport preceding hand in hand with the population growth, there would be a serious impact on the local highway network.
Despite misgivings, the Society has not objected to the proposals for Fradley, regarding them as being the most logical and sustainable option for meeting the required housing provisions in the District and the most consistent with the provisions of "Regional Guidelines for the West Midlands" approved by the Government with which the Structure Plan must comply.
Apart from these two issues which are of particular interest to the Society, the Draft Review contains many other relevant policies and proposals. It is not possible within the confines of the NEWSLETTER to summarise the Society's comments on these but a copy of the formal observations can be made available to any interested member who wishes to have one.