THE BLACK COUNTRY PLAN: Housing plans and major developments
Controversial housing plans and major developments to regenerate the Black Country are now open to consultation, as residents across the region can now have their say.
The Black Country Plan, first drafted in 2017, aims to identify land suitable for regeneration and provide housing and employment opportunities across the Black Country. It also aims protect green belt land from developers.
The consulation will take place between August 16 and October 11 for residents in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton.
The government projects the Black Country will need over 76,000 new homes over the next 20 years. It also needs 560 hectares of land to accommodate new jobs by 2039 – equivalent to 835 football fields.
The consultation first began between July to September 2017, with both residents and developers claiming not enough “sufficient evidence” was acknowledged about which sites would be suitable for housing or industry.
Other organisations, such as the Wildlife Trust, Local Nature Partnership, and Natural England argued each proposed development should be valued on its benefits to the Black Country rather than a “broad-brush approach”.
Cllr Qadar Zada, leader of the opposition for Dudley Council, said: “I have grave concerns about the whole process, rushed through the summer break with the intent of pulling wool over people’s eyes.
“These proposals hand over swathes of green space and green belt land to developers for a quick profit.
“The Conservative-run council has completely disregarded the opinion of local people and are on a mission to build a house on every patch of grass.”
He added: “My position is clear I will oppose building on green space, they are for our community to enjoy.
“When we are full, we are full, and Dudley is already struggling with access to local services, schools, GP’s, and road networks without making this worse.
“I don’t care what other local authorities are doing, I’m here to serve Dudley and its Dudley Tory planning policy that has failed and therefore we are in this position.”
Regeneration plans include the Black Country Garden City, one of Britain’s biggest ever brownfield site regeneration programmes, covering more than 1,500 hectares.
But the plan has been hit by controversy.
Proposals to build new homes on Foredraft Street and Highfield Road, Coley Gate, in Dudley, are to be re-examined despite backlash from residents.
In Walsall, around eight per cent of green belt land is up for development – as it has the largest amount.
And in Sandwell, a small amount of green belt land is to be released for new homes over the coming years.
Wendy Morton, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, said: “The council needs to go back and have a rethink and relook at this strategy.
“They need to look at where are our brownfield sites, and what can we do to make sure we remediate those and use those first.
“Aldridge is a settled community, with its own unique characteristics.
“If you start building on the edges of Streetly, Rushall, and Shelfield, all our communities will just become the suburbs of greater Birmingham, and I think that’s wrong.
“I’m not saying I am no to any development.
“What I’m saying is let’s look at strategy, let’s look at where it is, but let’s look at using making sure we use our brownfields first before any consideration to the green belt.”
Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Dudley Council will always consider brownfield sites first.
We will explore every opportunity to build on previously developed land to fulfil future housing and employment needs and importantly to protect our green belt.
We know people care about what happens on their doorstep so I would urge them to take a few minutes to complete the consultation and help shape the future of this borough.”
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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