Black Country Plan: Campaigner calls for changes to brownfield classification rules

A campaigner against green spaces being earmarked for housing is calling for changes to land use rules as public consultation over the Black Country Plan draws to a close.

Churchill Road bridge, Bentley, and Pouk Hill urban open space near M6 Junction 10
Churchill Road bridge, Bentley, and Pouk Hill urban open space near M6 Junction 10

Walsall resident Chris Jones is among many angry over the inclusion of Pouk Hill urban open space off Bentley Lane in Reedswood, which inspired a Slade song; the former Reedswood Golf Course off Green Lane; and land off Churchill Road near the M6 in Bentley being listed as potential sites.

Mr Jones, a former ward representative for Birchills-Leamore, said it was time for changes over the classification of green belt and brownfield land.

"Many so called brownfield sites have been fallow for many years now and have become populated with trees, wildlife, flora and fauna. These areas are the lungs of urban areas as is the case in Birchills.

Chris Jones

"I would be calling for a category of 'Open Spaces of Urban Value'. Some of these so called brownfield sites like Pouk Hill and the former golf course of Reedswood Park are of immense value not only for mental health but helping to tackle the pollution caused in our area, the M6 at Junction 10.

"Whilst we agree the issues are the same largely across the Black Country, there are differences. Classification is one of the issues. Who decides what constitutes as brownfield?

"Technically the old golf course forming part of Reedswood Park is brownfield although it has a diverse wildlife population and 2,000 trees planted for the Queen's Jubilee.

"Just about everything around here gets lumped into that category. The historical name of Black Country is in danger of being returned to us from whence it came, to the days when Queen Victoria closed the blinds of her railway carriage when passing through due to the ghastly view.

"Secondly, if you notice the concentration has been on issue in the east of the borough and it was only by chance at the 11th hour that we found out about the decimation in this area."

Former Reedswood Golf Course in Walsall is among the sites

Mr Jones, of Bentley Lane, Reedswood, was among campaigners in Walsall who called for the consultation period to be extended beyond October 11, arguing that it has been overly complex, inaccessible to many and has not been properly promoted.

The plan, which will see more than 7,000 homes built on green belt sites across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell has sparked a wave of protest.

Walsall Council stated: “We have consulted extensively with the borough on the Draft Black Country Plan. It meets the statutory requirements for publicity on Development Plans and our consultation ran for eight weeks rather than the statutory six, so that people had a longer time to respond.  It is not possible to extend this further – as this time scale was already agreed by all four Black Country authorities, leaders and their cabinets.”

“The plan was shared widely via the Walsall Council website and its digital media channels. There will be a further opportunity for the public to engage during a consultation next summer."

Earlier this month several residents attended a meeting at the Sons of Rest Hall in Reedswood to air their views over the plan. Pouk Hill, a former basalt quarry, inspired the Slade song of the same name, released on their 1970 album Play It Loud. Ex-lead singer Noddy Holder lived on the nearby Beechdale estate. The cover photograph of the band's first album, Beginnings, was taken there.

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