Dispute over controversial Black Country housing plans set to rumble

The seven cornfields have been rescued from the developers, but other green belt sites are threatened in the Black Country plan

Since its publication last week, the Black Country Draft Plan has sent shockwaves across the region, with some questioning why so much Green Belt land has been put in place for development.

Others breathed a sigh of relief, after sites such as Seven Cornfields and Corbett Meadow – both the focus of long-running campaigns to save them – were left out of the plan altogether.

And the mayor of West Midlands has now floundered – today announcing the launch of a review to replace the greenbelt sites planned in the plan with former industrial land.

As part of the Black Country Plan, the green belt could be carved out to make room for 7,720 homes and 47.8 hectares (118.1 acres) of land for employment.

The threatened sites include two plots in the Kingswinford North and Wall Heath area of ​​Dudley, where around 870 houses could be built.

Over 300 houses are lined up for two sites in Bushbury, Wolverhampton, and land north of Painswick Close, at Yew Tree, Great Barr, has been proposed for 120 houses.

A campaign launched to save the Grapes Pool field in Bilston, which was planned in the plan for 85 houses, already has nearly 1,000 supporters.

In Walsall, 978 houses have been allocated to land at Yieldsfield Farm, Stafford Road, Bloxwich; and the developers are seeking to build 1,426 homes on land between Queslett Road, Doe Bank Lane and Aldridge Road in Pheasey.

Each part of the Black Country will see Green Belt lands developed under the draft plan, which was developed by the four councils and will be presented to the ruling cabinet of each authority in a series of meetings next month. .

Mike Wood, Tory MP for Dudley South, said there was “no justification” for freeing up land from the greenbelt to the Golden Triangle and Holbeache – both in his constituency – for housing.

He said: “Dudley South is already contributing at least its fair share of the new housing the local community needs with many developments on old contaminated sites – places like the Marriott Road factory site in Netherton, Cookley. works in Brockmoor, the old bus depot and foundry in Harts Hill and Woodside, Ketley Quarry and Ketley Brickworks in Kingswinford and Pensnett, and hundreds of new homes in and around downtown Brierley Hill.

“Together, they provide brownfields for thousands of new homes.

“Building 870 more properties on the Triangle and Holbeache Fields would not only mean destroying the last two Greenbelt sites at Dudley South – with irreversible damage to wildlife and their habitats – but would exert unsustainable and unacceptable pressures. on local services and infrastructure. which are already stretched. “

Mr Wood urged residents to oppose the plans when the consultation opens in August.

His fellow Borough Member of Parliament Marco Longhi, also a Conservative, said he was furious with construction plans on green belt land in his constituency of Dudley North.

He said it was “unacceptable” for Dudley’s council to consider releasing parts of the green belt despite the constituency having an “oversupply” of 1,000 homes.

Mr Longhi said: “I am appalled by the initial proposals and will oppose any measures I can use.

“It is very important that residents who agree with me join my campaign against the proposals and respond to the consultation with their views.”

Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb said it was “awesome” that Corbett Meadow in Amblecote was left out of the plan, following a campaign by the Save the Corbett Meadow action group.

But she warned that while the news had been a great relief to residents, nothing was “set in stone” yet.

“Now is not the time to be complacent because potential developers continue to be high,” Ms. Webb said. “We will rally our support once the consultation opens and invite others to join us in the ongoing fight to save Corbett Meadow from housing development.

“The meadow was a gift to the people of Stourbridge by John Corbett and it should be managed in the public interest as he intended.”

Meanwhile, Dudley’s Labor advisers have vowed to oppose any greenbelt development in the borough.

The group’s leader, Councilor Qadar Zada, accused council planners of trying to turn areas of natural beauty into “concrete jungles”.

“We oppose any construction on these precious spaces,” he said. “When the district is full, it is full. Why is this conservative council forcing massive developments on the local population regardless of the pressure on schools, doctor’s offices and roads?

“The locals don’t want them and it’s time the council listened to them.”

Pat McFadden, Labor MP for Wolverhampton South East, said it was a “big victory” for campaigners that the sprawling Seven Cornfields site was left out of the draft plan.

He added: “We shouldn’t have to choose between the housing the city needs and the green spaces we love.”

Planners insist there is not enough brownfield land available to meet the region’s housing needs of 71,459 new homes by 2039, meaning some green belt sites will need to be developed.

The four council firms will vote on the Black Country Plan proposals between July 5 and 7. If approved, it will go to an eight-week public consultation in August.

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