Huge retirement village on green belt in Solihull rejected
A retirement community which would have seen a Solihull village “nearly double in size overnight” has been refused planning permission.
Councillors last night (Wednesday 3rd October) threw out plans for the large-scale development, which would have eaten into the green belt in Hampton Lane, Catherine de Barnes.
The application at Oak Farm would have consisted of 50 care beds, 49 care suites, 72 apartments, seven cottages and four bungalows.
Despite arguments from officers that there was a “desperate” need for care facilities and that the complex would create 150 jobs, the planning committee did not feel it could support the scheme.
Duncan McArdle, a resident for the past five years, had told members that the village was being bombarded with applications and that the latest plans endangered an area which acted as “a green gateway to Solihull”.
“Catherine de Barnes is currently not a large village and the residents are constantly fighting threats to it,” he said.
“We’ve also had the threat from the Junction 6 M42 motorway service station and the airport extension. This is just another example.”
Cllr Bob Sleigh, Leader of Solihull Council and a Bickenhill ward councillor, told the meeting that he did not think the plans met the “very special circumstances” for building on the green belt.
“In my view it would make a marked change to the whole character, appearance and amenity of the whole area if it were to go ahead as proposed.
“Overnight it would nearly double the size of the population of Catherine de Barnes, so it needs careful consideration which I know this committee will give.”
He also voiced fears that, in time, care requirements could be dropped and the development left as “just a nice place to live.” Although officers argued that the nature of care packages would be pinned down as part of permission.
Kim Allen, the council’s area planning officer, conceded that it was “a big site”, but argued that around 40 per cent of the land was in fact brownfield.
Donna Savage, speaking on behalf of the developers, Minton Care Ltd and Richmond Care Villages Ltd, said that several years’ work had gone into ensuring the scheme was high-quality.
“Week in, week out we hear we’re an ageing population and that there is a crisis in the adult social care system.
“And whilst this application would not solve all of those problems, we have got to start somewhere.”
She added that nearby residents would be able to use the on-site facilities, including a wellness centre and restaurant.
Several members of the planning committee had last week visited a similar scheme down south and, while complimentary of the operation, they were not persuaded by the plans in front of them.
Cllr Maggie Allen (Green, Shirley West) said: “Aside from the issues relating to the green belt, I’m not convinced we have a need for this particular type of scheme.
“I went along last week to see the one down in Oxford. And it’s absolutely beautiful there’s no doubt about it … we were all putting our names down for it.
“But really and truthfully it is a scheme that will be very expensive and you’ll only be able to get in there if you can afford it. And I’m not sure that’s desperately needed in Catherine de Barnes.”
Echoing the point, Cllr Glenis Slater (Lib Dem, Elmdon) said: “It seems strange to me that we can have very special circumstances for a care home that only a very few privileged people will be able to use, but we can’t have a very special circumstance rule for people who are very much in need of housing.”
Cllr Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) said he feared the 13-block proposal would “swamp” the village and undermine efforts to protect the green belt.
Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/huge-retirement-village-green-belt-15238125