Telford’s Unsupportable Stance on Brum Overspill

the Greater Birmingham LEP is preparing the Greater Birmingham Strategic Spatial Framework.

This covers the Birmingham Housing Market Area.  It excludes Telford and Wrekin.  Telford and Wrekin determinadly refuse to take any of the Greater Brum overspill.  Ironically as Telford was set out specifically to take such overspill.

This illustrates the problem of post-strategic planning whereby partnerships try – under the auspices of the NPPF – to meet housing need wholly within HMA boundaries.  Remember how HMAs are defined, from Travel to Work Areas (TTWAs) defined from the 10% census as those areas where the plurality of trips are self contained – people travelling to work within the same area.

The problem with the plurality rule is is not not normalised.  Where there are multiple competing work centres in a complex region the plurality will be a lot lower than say a seaside area. In these cases large numbers of commuters to the main metropolis just below the plurality level get ignorored.  Consider towns like Telford, Stafford and Worcester, Rugby each centres of their own HMAS but undoubedly commuter towns to Brum.  Indeed previous regional strategy recognised this and required a commuters element to housing targets.

It might be countered that commuting is already factored in to migration projections, no nice as these are housing constrained.  Many more might commute if housing was available.

The most important argument for a commuting element to housing targets outside HMAs but within commuting range of large cities is economic.   People choosing to live in these areas are budget constrained and make a classic trade off between commuting distance and house prices.  If they are prevented from commuting they might not be able to afford to move to new homes in the HMA, hence you have housing targets implying intensification but which households cannot afford, rather developers build housing with higher returns at lower densities and the targets undershoot.  Exactly what you see in London and Brum.  You cannot force housing within HMAs if households cannot afford it. The surge in housebuilding and affordability in the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries occurred precisely because the ability to commute was strengthened by increasing transport investment and the ability to build housing along the transport routes.

Telford is a prime spot able to service Greater Birmingham, it must play its proper role.


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