|Planning Developments in Lichfield|
Our January meeting has become the traditional time for us to be visited by the Chief Planning Officer at the Council, Ian Thompson when he updates us on new developments in the City. This year he was again joined by Paul Ansell, his policy officer, who opened proceedings by explaining the state of play with the Council's work on replacing the District Plan with the new Local Development Framework.
The Council's new plan is required because of legislation introduced last year by the Government. The Council has to review the existing overall strategy for development in the City and back that by identifying land for housing, jobs, shopping and leisure, to be released up to 2011. The Plan itself will look even further forward to 2021, but has to be reviewed in about three years time (another government requirement) when a decision will need to be taken on what further land might be needed for development by 2021.
Some work on topics like the need for new housing had been the subject of consultation with the public last year. Land identified at that time at Shortbutts Lane and Rugeley Power Station (together with the Walsall Road and Chesterfield Road developments) is likely to be sufficient to meet the requirements placed on the Council. Meanwhile the land not in the Green Belt between London Road and Birmingham Road but protected from building development will continue to be protected with a view to considering if it might be needed in the next decade.
Paul explained that a new area for prestige offices had been identified on the edge of the Darwin Park development, close by the site of the proposed Waitrose supermarket. As far as shopping was concerned, everyone recognised that there was little opportunity to buy bulky goods like fridges and televisions in Lichfield. The Council would be suggesting that land on Eastern Avenue should be set aside in the new plan.
The Council plans to publish its draft plan for comments soon, with exhibitions running at the Guildhall on 26th and 27th February. That will not be the end, however, because the plan together with more detailed proposals for the City Centre and West Burntwood, will be the subject of a public inquiry chaired by a government inspector in mid 2006.
Ian's presentation looked at what the public had said that they wanted for Lichfield over the next few years. Preserving its unique character, increasing car parking and improving the 'public realm' came high on the list. The City Centre needed more shopping facilities; should become more of a centre for learning and enterprise; needed a more vibrant night time economy; an improved environment; and a more cohesive link between the tourist attractions and shopping facilities.
So what's planned? Ian took us through a comprehensive list of initiatives.
The session finished with a question and answer session in which Ian and Paul dealt with questions on the Southern By-pass and its relationship to the proposals to reopen the canal, parking problems, the relocation of the police station and the problems of infill housing development in sensitive areas. All in all, this was an excellent meeting when council officers openly shared their thoughts with us. We look forward to their return next year.