Harris Lamb Blog – 24th March



Pat Downes

24th March, 2011.

Who has a say in localism?

By Pat Downes, Director.

A recent conference co-hosted by No.5 Chambers in Birmingham set out the property community’s desire for more information on what the Localism Bill will mean.



The route provides 27 miles of privately funded and operated highway from Coleshill in North Warwickshire to Cannock in South Staffordshire.  The road carried an average 47,592 vehicles on weekdays in the summer of 2010  and from my experience of the Toll Road, private cars form the vast majority of the traffic.

The M6 Toll Road was identified as an “M6 Relief Road” to alleviate congestion on the M6, which is something many people feel has not been adequately addressed and, with one way car tolls at peak periods of £5, this is something to be debated elsewhere.

From a property perspective the benefits have probably been more tangible than the traffic improvements.  The southern end of the Toll Road and the ‘T1’ junction close to J4 M6 coincided with some of the latter stage build projects at the Hams Hall National Distribution Park, a 430 acre business park which ranks as one of the best such employment parks in the UK.

Junctions T2 and T3 appear to largely function as commuter gateways for those living to the south and east of Sutton Coldfield from where national motorway access has improved considerably and the effect on house prices has been positive in these areas.

The access to Junctions T4 and T5 at Weeford and Lichfield has given a stimulus to residential and commercial property markets alike with possibly the biggest winner being the 300 acre Fradley Park, where some of the largest distribution buildings in the area have been built with more to come.  We are marketing the new Fradley Prologis Scheme with 70 acres and units to 700,000 sq ft available to be built and which will be on site shortly.

T6 Burntwood, a forgotten part of the West Midlands conurbation 10 years ago for business and for new build residential perhaps, has not quite been “transformed” but certainly “considerably improved”.

T7 & T8 and the Cannock access points to the Toll Road provided the catalyst that has helped to promote the former coal mining town into a first rate employment location.  Significant development of a cross section of employment type accommodation from offices to manufacturing and warehouse operations has bought vitality to Cannock which I think is largely due to the Toll Road passing the town’s doorstep.

For those drivers who still regularly sit stationary on the M6 between junction 8 and 10 bemoaning the state of the traffic and whether the Toll Road has done the job it promised, the tangible benefits are probably in property as much as traffic counts.  The commercial new build and viability of new schemes along the entire length of the Toll Road has been transformed since the road was built.

For the positive effects of the Toll Road you may look little further than the development and opportunity is has created alongside it.

Speakers included Bob Neill, the Under Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government, and Glenn Howells, the renowned architect.

The conclusion, in part, was that devolution of power to local authorities is both “exciting and worrying” to planning professionals in equal measure, particularly the desire for input from community groups. 

It appears that it may be better to ask “who isn’t having a say in localism?” and should we be worried about the answers.

With the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies and in effect the more centrally planned objectives that those planning frameworks provide – regional energy policies, minerals extraction and waste initiatives to name but a few – are we in danger of UK Plc missing out on its opportunities to have cohesive planning that helps our economy overall?

With important decision making in the planning system looking destined for very locally biased approvals or rejection there may be real dangers in stunting economic, social and lifestyle developments.

We have been involved over the last few years with a number of major clients and their green energy commitments, principally in planning wind farm and photo-voltaic project developments.  A very emotive topic, however the example is very illustrative of the issues raised here.  With a wholly ‘local’ agenda wind farms stand less chance of being approved without more central ‘diktat’ to encourage and set a template for what is required.

Localism is a fantastic opportunity but we must not lose sight of strategic and more often than not large scale projects of wider value to regions and the country. 

For advice and assistance on all aspects of Planning and development, Pat would be happy to help. He can be reached on 0121 455 9455 or via email: patrick.downes@harrislamb.com.    

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article or weblog (‘blog’) are the personal views of the contributors and authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of any named companies or thier employees.