Clock is ticking for green belt sites as protests continue

The publication of the draft Black Country Plan in June 2021 sparked protests to save the green belt across the four boroughs.

Campaigners are determined to stop development of green belt site off Linthouse Lane, Wednesfield
Campaigners are determined to stop development of green belt site off Linthouse Lane, Wednesfield

A year down the line and the fight continues, with campaigners continuing to bombard councils with their concerns over a number of proposed schemes.

They received a boost in Dudley after grazing fields at Wollaston Farm, Stourbridge and land at Guys Lane, Lower Gornal – both of which are council-owned – were pulled from the Black Country Plan (BCP) after they were deemed unsuitable for development.

And campaigners are hopeful of further progress after council leader Patrick Harley suggested other sites could soon follow suit.

The borough has seen protests against two proposals in Kingswinford, namely 533 homes at The Triangle, Swindon Road, and 330 homes off Holbeach Lane.

Campaigners are hopeful that land at Holbeache Lane, Kingswinford, will be removed from the plan

And Mr Harley has suggested both sites could be removed from the plan amid transport concerns.

He said he would "not be at all surprised" if the vast majority of the borough's green belt sites were not eventually removed from the plan.

Three green belt plots at Worcester Lane, Stourbridge, are also under threat having been put forward for 115 homes.

A 'Keep Pedmore Green' campaign is up and running, urging residents to fight the proposals by taking part in the next consultation.

Campaigners say they are also concerned about land on Bromwich Lane, although the site has not yet been allocated for development in the BCP.

Most of the sites put forward for development in Dudley are classed as brownfield.

They include land at Ketley Quarry, which has been earmarked for 612 homes, and Old Wharf Road, Stourbridge, where 230 homes are proposed.

A green belt site on Holbeache Lane, Kingswinford

In Walsall, a campaign has been running since last year to stop a development of almost 1,000 homes on green belt land between Pheasey and Streetly.

The proposal would see homes built on green fields spanning 42 hectares (104 acres) between Queslett Road, Doe Bank Lane and Aldridge Road.

Campaigners have warned that if it is built over the area will be transformed into one vast conurbation.

They say building a new housing estate will wipe out a precious green space, kill off wildlife habitats and pile untold pressure on local infrastructure such as schools and health services.

A petition highlighting the damage development would cause to bird species and the environment garnered almost 5,000 signatures.

Nearby, another campaign continues to fight plans to build homes at Calderfields West, next to the Arboretum.

The borough has also seen three additional schemes totalling more than 800 homes added to the BCP at the last minute.

The proposals include land west of Chester Road in Streetly, which has been allocated for 655 homes, while land to the east of Skip Lane and north of Woodfield Close has been set aside for 135 homes.

A total of 30 homes could be built at the Pacific nurseries site east of Chester Road, Aldridge, where a separate field to the north has already been put forward for 228 homes.

The sites, which have been added to the BCP having missed the original deadline, are set to go out to consultation after being signed off by the four councils' ruling cabinets.

Councillor Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, said his authority was having to "bear the bulk" of planned developments in green belt areas because it had more such land than neighbouring boroughs.

Speaking at a Walsall cabinet meeting on Wednesday, deputy leader Adrian Andrew urged residents of the wards affected to take part in the consultation and make sure there views would be heard.

He said: "This takes place from July to September this year and it is important everyone does make their views known before the cabinet review in October and the final government consultation between November and December.

"We will listen to what people say and feed that back but we are working to targets that have been set by others, and those that don't live in the borough."

Meanwhile, the Black Country will need to rely heavily on neighbouring areas if it is to meet its housing target of 76,076 homes by 2039.

A total of 28,239 – 37 per cent – of the planned homes are to be allocated to land in neighbouring areas including South Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cannock Chase.

The proposed developments include a major scheme for 2,500 homes on land at Kitchen Lane and Linthouse Lane in Wednesfield, close to the border with neighbouring Essington.

The scheme has received a slew of objections, with councillors and the Essington Action Group (EAG) among those to state their opposition, largely over concerns with the environment, over-development and infrastructure.

EAG has called for a focus on brownfield regeneration and warned that South Staffordshire was in danger of "over-providing" homes for the Black Country.

South Staffordshire Council has planned for 8,821 homes to meet housing needs over the next 17 years, nearly half of which are for neighbouring local authorities who are "unable to meet their own housing targets".

The next stage of the BCP will see a consultation run from July to September on the three new Walsall sites.

A consultation on the draft publication plan, dubbed 'regulation 19', will then run in the autumn, before a finalised version is submitted to the Government by May 2023.

The plan is scheduled to be adopted by May 2024.

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