LOCAL Government Secretary Eric Pickles has promised more powers to protect the character of the borough.
Speaking to the Solihull News, he said that the Coalition’s ‘Localism Bill’ would allow decisions about development to be made at local level.
“In Solihull, the local authority should have the power to retain the area’s unique character, and keep it separate from Birmingham,” he said.
Last year, Mr Pickles unveiled much-hailed plans, supposedly making it easier for councils to stop “garden grabbing.”
But hopes that this would curb the controversial practise have been dashed by the amount of applications that still receive the nod.
“I’m surprised about that. In the end it comes down to the choice of local councils, and whether they want to have it,” argued Mr Pickles.
“If councils decided they want to build on back gardens, then that’s up to them, equally, if there’s areas they want to preserve, then they can.”
The MP has also come under-fire over cuts in funding – Solihull’s Government grant has been criticised by all parties locally.
He acknowledged that the most deprived councils had been shielded, but that changes on the way could help to redress the balance.
“The system is essentially broken,” he admitted, “but we didn’t have the time to totally reorganise it. We are looking at allowing councils to keep the income from their business rates, and Solihull would be a big beneficiary of that.”
Mr Pickles was visiting the Solihull Conservative Association, in Manor Road, last Thursday – the day of the Olton by-election.
And he seemed optimistic that the Tories would retake control of the council this year, describing local activists as “pretty chipper.”