Black Country green belt consultation could be delayed due to coronavirus

A green belt public consultation could be delayed due to coronavirus, it has been said.

An aerial photograph, taken by Express & Star photographer Tim Thursfield, showing the green rolling fields of the Seven Cornfields, Wolverhampton, where a housing development is proposed. In the background is Sedgley, in the north of neighbouring borough Dudley.
An aerial photograph, taken by Express & Star photographer Tim Thursfield, showing the green rolling fields of the Seven Cornfields, Wolverhampton, where a housing development is proposed. In the background is Sedgley, in the north of neighbouring borough Dudley.

Planning chiefs may need extra time to work on the Black Country Plan - which was scheduled for release in October 2020

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield has revealed this date could be extended due to disruption caused by the pandemic.

It could mean residents may be left waiting to hear whether green belt sites - like the Seven Cornfields, near Penn - have been considered for development.

Councillor Brookfield told the Express & Star: "Once we have got past this crisis, we will sit down with the council and other Black Country authorities and look at all the circumstances.

"If there is a need to drop a month or two, or whatever, then we will look at that. I am more than happy to do that.

"It won't be the first thing that has been put back because of this coronavirus.

"I won't be looking at it again over the next few weeks and months. We need to get over this first."

Shortage

The Seven Cornfields, which is an area of land measuring 240 acres, was submitted to planners as a potential site for 1,300 homes.

It comes amid a shortage of homes in the Black Country for a growing population.

Hundreds of other sites across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall have also been submitted.

A report published in December revealed that the Black Country's greenbelt will be needed for 27,000 new homes - due to a lack of urban space or brownfield sites.

A refined list of sites - deemed suitable for housing - will be released in the public consultation.

Blakenhall Councillor Paul Birch, who started the Save the Seven Cornfields Facebook page, believes the lock down has shown the importance of green spaces like the Seven Cornfields.

"It really has [shown the area's importance]," said Councillor Birch.

"I think there is a quiet acceptance [among the general public] in a way that the housing estate won't go ahead."

However, there has been concern among residents and walkers about confusing rights-of-way on the Seven Cornfields.

Prosper

"Some people have anxieties about the rights-of-way," said Councillor Birch.

"Some of the signage has dropped off. People don't know which is the right path to follow.

"Obviously the farmer [the landowner] doesn't want to see people trespassing on his land.

"The council have told me as soon as we are past the lock down, they will look at resurrecting the signs."

The Seven Cornfields site straddles the Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire boundary.

In October, it was revealed South Staffordshire District Council chose not to include the site in its future housing plan.

That meant the focus shifted to the Wolverhampton side, on the North-East part of the area. The site was submitted by the landowner and developer Barratt Homes.

Councillor Birch added: "We don't want the site to become a housing estate.

"We want the farmer to continue running the farm and to be successful and prosper."

A Wolverhampton Council spokesman said: "Once coronavirus restrictions are relaxed a team will be sent out to review existing marker posts along the public footpaths and make them clearer.

"We will also carry out remedial works on the footpaths."

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