'Use empty shops for homes' call as councils urged to protect green belt

Council chiefs have been urged to examine ways to create more homes in town and city centres as part of the Black Country Plan.

High streets were hit by lockdown
High streets were hit by lockdown

Business leaders in the region said the possibility of using disused stores for housing provision should be "explored further".

Hundreds of shops currently lie empty across the region after struggling high streets were plunged into further turmoil by Covid lockdowns.

And the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said utilising such sites for homes would fit in with the region's "brownfield first" approach to development.

In the current version of the Black Country Plan (BCP), dozens of green belt sites have been put forward for nearly 8,500 homes.

In its submission to the BCP consultation, the LEP said it was "supportive" of the plan and welcomed the brownfield first approach "which fits with our policy aims for the region".

It said unlocking old industrial sites could act as a "catalyst to wider regeneration and economic prosperity" and would protect "natural provision".

The statement added: "The housing issue specifically within town centres could also be explored further – the task of re-balancing the town/city centres with the removal of retail classification on properties to allow for greater housing provision."

The draft plan consultation concluded in October 2021 and drew thousands of responses.

A further consultation on three additional sites in Walsall that were added to the plan at a late stage is currently running and will finish on September 5.

The outcomes will inform the 'publication plan', which is due to be published in the coming weeks.

It will go out to another consultation once approved by the four Black Country councils.

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