Reacting to the report, Dame Caroline Spelman said,
‘Getting the right balance of quality, affordable housing across the West Midlands is critical to sustaining the regional economic growth we have enjoyed in recent years, and it is right that we undertake a carefully considered review of local housing need in order to meet current demand and effectively plan for the future.
‘Already my constituency of Meriden and the wider borough of Solihull is playing its part in helping meet the housing shortfall across the wider region. I am therefore deeply concerned that the report has provisionally identified the Meriden gap as an area for future developments; including a proposal for another new settlement.
Whilst this proposal is only a draft, I would like to assure residents that I will do all that I can to ensure that local voices are heard, and work to secure fair protection of our valuable green belt. I have always been clear that it must be brownfield first, and I will be actively encouraging the authorities/GBHMA to listen closely to the concerns of local residents; taking into account the impact of recent and proposed major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and SMBC’s plans for a garden city around the HS2 interchange station’.
Commenting on the publication of the HMA report Councillor Ian Courts, Solihull Council's Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Managed Growth said:
“This study is another step towards identifying how the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area (HMA), of which Solihull is a part, might tackle the housing shortfall across the wider area. It also shows the cooperation that is happening between local authorities in the HMA to try and tackle this difficult issue.
“I’m pleased to see the study recognises the strategic importance of the Meriden Gap in Solihull, noting that it makes a significant contribution to the green belt. However, there is a clear tension between the study suggesting that areas in Solihull may be suitable for consideration for new development, whilst also recognising the significant role the green belt in Solihull is already playing in the region.
“The study recommends that further work is done to investigate the possibility of new settlements and urban extensions at locations across the HMA; some of those identified are in Solihull.
“It’s important to be clear about the status of the study - it is evidence that the Council needs to take into account and respond to. To do this the Council is undertaking its own research to carefully and constructively consider the findings and recommendations in the study and understand how realistic these recommendations might be.
“The study is clear that there is still much work to do. We will incorporate our response to the report into the next draft version of the Solihull Local Plan, which is due to be published later this year. We will be keen to continue engaging with our communities across the borough as we prepare the next version of our plan.”