Patrick White reported on early discussions with Government in relation to a potential ‘Housing Deal’ and on the opportunity to work with the Government, especially the Department for Communities and Local Government, to increase delivery, address land remediation and market failure. He advised that following preliminary discussions with the Government and the Homes and Community Agency a brief reference to a potential ‘Housing Deal’ was anticipated in the forthcoming Budget linked to the Housing Investment Fund. He outlined the negotiating position adopted by the WMCA i.e. that a Spatial Plan was not necessary but that significant investment in housing, land remediation and associated transport infrastructure was necessary over a long term period. He noted that the Housing Market Area requirements and supply issues differed between partners across the region and advised that over the next three / four months a number of options would be worked through. The common goal was to build homes and sustainable communities to underpin inclusive growth.
The Chair noted the WMCA Mayoral aspirations for housing. He advised that the Mayor and he would be lobbying all local MPs and relevant Ministers to garner support on housing and also making the related to other issues such as Skills and Employment.
Councillor David Humphreys advised that two thirds of the area of North Warwickshire Borough Council was situate within the Green Belt. He referred to a recent decision made by the WMCA’s Investment Board to grant £3.690 million to Telford and Wrekin Council to assist in bringing forward approximately 540 housing units across that area. He enquired whether similar support would be made available to bring forward smaller development sites where existing housing units had come to the end of their lifespan. The Chair commented that such funds might be made available on a case by case basis. He added that the original name of the Land Remediation Fund had been amended to the Brownfield Land and Property Development Fund to cater for such instances.
Karl Tupling reported on the progress being made to investigate the portfolio of land coming forward and noted the aggregate effect of the development of a number of smaller development sites. These sites were also likely to be more attractive to small and medium sized developers.
The Chair commented on the maturity of partnership working in the West Midlands and on the founding principle intention that each community would benefit from its creation albeit not necessarily in the same way or at the same time.
Councillor Paul Moore enquired whether the Brownfield Technology Institute and a Modular Housing Manufacturing plant would form part of the ‘Housing Deal’ discussions. Patrick White confirmed this to be the case. The Chair referred to the very successful Modular Housing Manufacturing plant operated by Accord Housing in Walsall and that an indication of this success was the need to identify a larger site.
Councillor Majid Mahmood referred to the difficulties arising upon the practice of some developers to ‘land bank’ and on the difficulties this caused with developable land, often with the benefit of planning permission, remaining undeveloped. He suggested action to prevent this practice was required and that the WMCA Mayor should be encouraged to use his influence with regard to this issue. He also suggested that any land identified for development needed to be matched by appropriate proposals for transport infrastructure. He also commented on the need tom address social deprivation through the provision of social housing units and partnership working.
In summing up, the Chair noted the various points and commented that it would be important to retain the involvement of all sectors of the housing and development industry, given that the West Midlands needed a broad mixture of tenures. Councillor Peter Butlin commented on the length of time that could be involved in the various planning permission stages from the initial grant of Outline Consent, through negotiations on Section 106 Agreements, approval of Reserved Matters before construction need commence. The Chair reported that these issues had been raised with Government and that the WMCA Mayor and he would continue to press for positive action.
Patrick White advised that these issues could be discussed with Government as part of the negotiations on a ‘Housing Deal’ and assured the Board that the pipeline schemes were integrated with proposed infrastructure developments. The development priorities would be determined through the pipeline. The Chair reminded the Board that the West Midlands had a 30 year history of developing an integrated transport infrastructure and was in a better position than other Combined Authorities as such.