The West Midlands Land Commission Terms of Reference
The Commissioners will keep these Terms of Reference under review as the work of the Commission progresses.
The West Midlands has achieved a great deal in development and regeneration terms in recent years - enterprise zones, iconic buildings, new homes, and significant transport investment and improvements – all of which have impacted upon the built environment, and contributed towards the region’s recent economic growth. With some £8 billion of new investment agreed in the recent Devolution Deal, the West Midlands is now on the cusp of an even more ambitious programme, delivering a series of major new projects including HS2, Curzon, UK Central, a proposed second i54, the Coventry & Warwickshire Gateway - the combination of which has the potential to be transformative to the economy of the West Midlands and to have a significant impact at national level.
The new Strategic Economic Plan covering the WMCA area (the ‘WMCA SEP’), demonstrates the impact of these major new investments on the regional economy. The WMCA SEP outlines plans to create additional jobs and deliver incremental GVA growth over and above the LEPs’ existing economic targets. However, the delivery of the LEPs’ existing plans is already constrained by land supply, with the pinch being felt on both land for residential and employment use. The WMCA SEP is therefore likely to prove an even greater stretch, and the West Midlands local authorities and the LEPs are concerned that the delivery of the WMCA SEP could be constrained by a lack of developable land.
The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (‘WMCA’) provides a singular opportunity to take a fresh look at the West Midlands land supply, and to consider what measures could be initiated and undertaken to ensure an improved supply of developable land from both a strategic and a regional perspective. Whilst individual local authorities will retain their role in facilitating the development of land within their areas, it is precisely the joined-up manner in which the WMCA will work that will provide the basis for some of the recommendations of the Commission.
There are three premises underpinning the work of the Commission:
For the purposes of the Commission a “sufficient supply of developable land” is defined as land which, ideally, is:
The WMCA’s commitment to the Land Commission was outlined in the Autumn 2015 Devolution Deal. In that document, the Government outlined its support for the Land Commission and agreed to work with the WMCA in undertaking the Commission.
Approach and Scope
The Commission is independent, and will seek to adopt an evidential, diagnostic approach, supplemented where appropriate by case study material. It will rely, inter alia, on work being undertaken by Peter Brett Associates on infrastructure and demand for land, by Metro Dynamics on the regional economy and real estate markets, on economic modelling undertaken by Oxford Economics, and the Dynamic Economic Impact modelling being undertaken by KPMG.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission is not a planning commission, nor should any of its recommendations constitute a material consideration in the submission and determination of future planning applications. The Commission will not make site specific recommendations, nor should any of its recommendations be construed as relating to the valuation of sites or assets, either implicitly or explicitly.
The Commission’s geographic scope will be land covered by the three LEP areas. It will be cognisant of the poly-centric nature of the region.
The Commission will consider both public and private sector land holdings.
The Commission will address three major questions:
1. What are the challenges associated with delivering the employment land and housing targets set out in the WMCA SEP?
2. What are the blockages to the delivery of developable land?
3. How can a sufficient supply of developable land in the West Midlands be secured?
Lines of Enquiry
Within this scope, the Commission is likely to want to cover the following lines of enquiry:
(i) How to ensure a pipeline of a sufficient supply of developable land, which:
(ii) Collaborative delivery mechanisms for those functions which impact on land supply and usage in the following areas:
(iii) The extent of public sector land ownership and the means of unlocking these sites.
(iv) The relationship and tensions between brownfield, greenfield and Green Belt land.
(v) Collaboration between the public and private sector, including partnership models for delivering new development and the identification, pricing, mitigation and management of risk inherent in these models.
(vi) How to facilitate sufficient investment to deliver land and property supply:
(vii) The pros and cons of rendering unviable sites viable, including:
(viii) Is the planning system working in the West Midlands:
Resources will be targeted to those areas which the Commissioners consider likely to have most impact on the land supply. Where matters are identified which require additional resources to fully investigate, Commissioners will make recommendations as to how future workstreams can address those matters.
The Commission is likely to identify some issues which, whilst important in the context of the West Midlands economy and real estate markets, do not directly affect the supply of land across the region. Examples include the national skills shortage, the shortage of certain building materials, and the increasing costs of construction. The Commission will not directly address these issues, but will reference these matters in its final report to the WMCA, so that the WMCA may address them further through an alternative forum should it so wish.
In view of the relationship between productivity and the supply and cost of land, there is likely to be a close overlap between some of the work of the Commission and the proposed West Midlands Productivity and Skills Commission. To the extent that the timetable for the two commissions allows, they should collaborate to identify those areas of overlap and exchange relevant evidence and thinking.
An initial consultation process with key public sector stakeholders from across the West Midlands has already taken place, involving conversations with more than 50 individuals. These conversations have included representatives from both constituent and non-constituent authorities and all three LEPs. Those discussions have informed the drafting of these terms of reference.
The Commission’s intention is that it should undertake an inclusive process, offering all relevant parties the opportunity to contribute evidence and views. At its conclusion, stakeholders should feel they have had the opportunity to contribute to its work and recommendations. The Commission will undertake a wide consultation exercise, including the following groups of stakeholders:
A call for evidence will be drafted to inform this consultation exercise. Interested parties will be invited to submit both written and oral evidence.
It is intended that three Commission hearings will be held, one in each LEP area, at which a range of organisations will be invited to attend and provide their views on the call for evidence.
A research programme will be drafted, informed by the initial stakeholder consultation exercise, evidence received, and the views of the Commissioners. The research will be conducted in parallel with the evidence gathering process.
In order to ensure the Commission process is inclusive, a PR and communications strategy is being drafted to launch the Commission, to publicise the call for evidence, to inform key stakeholders of progress, and to publicise the Commission’s final report.
The Land Commission will make a series of recommendations, which will help shape:
The Commission’s recommendations will be made, cognisant of national policy priorities. They will seek to include recommendations for consideration by the WMCA to help inform future devolution discussions between the WMCA and the Government.
The Commission will seek to classify its recommendations to identify:
Recommendations will be made by the Commission to the Board of the WMCA. It will ultimately be for the Board of the WMCA to evaluate and decide whether to implement those recommendations. The Board of the WMCA will be invited to respond in writing to the recommendations of the Commission.
The Commission’s report and the WMCA’s response should be subject to independent and specialist legal review before publication.
Metro Dynamics will provide strategic advice to the Commission, and will also provide the Commission secretariat.
Bilfinger GVA will advise the Commission on matters pertaining to the local property markets.
Specialist advice will be sought from other advisers on an “as needed” basis as the Commission progresses.
The indicative timetable is set out below.
The eventual timetable will depend upon the volume of evidence generated, the extent of the research needed, and whether the Commissioners and the Board of the WMCA consider an interim report, or interim recommendations, to be of value.