Protest over development amid fears over loss of green belt

Protesters fear development on their doorstep could pave the way for the loss of more green belt land in the future.

Marco Longhi and residents of Sunningdale Road
Marco Longhi and residents of Sunningdale Road

Land at Red Lane, which sits on the border between Dudley and South Staffordshire, is being used as a builders’ yard and an application has now been lodged to build offices at the site too.

But those living in Sunningdale Road have lodged objections with South Staffordshire Council over the condition of the site and ‘noise pollution’ and ‘bright lighting’ emanating from it during the night.

Residents gathered to protest against the work supported by Dudley North MP Marco Longhi who said more work on the site could mean it is re-classified as a brownfield site, opening it up to larger-scale development in the future.

Resident Kathryn Morris said: “In clear view of my garden is an area that was previously used for horse grazing and has now become a rubbish tip with building debris and vehicle tyres. This has been the case since the business was established.” Mrs Morris is also concerned a new application, to build offices at a storage shed at the site, “will increase traffic”.

Mrs Morris added that a condition of the original planning permission was that mature trees be planted to disguise the concrete boundary of the site but says this has not been done.

A fellow objector, Lesley Gilbert, said: “This site was originally horse paddock and a stable. It has somehow migrated into an industrial storage facility with associated vehicles, plant and equipment.

“This is a change of use which was never approved.”

MP Marco Longhi said approval was granted for the builders’ yard on the land without public consultation. He said that as it was inside South Staffordshire, the council said it was under no obligation to consult the residents who lived in Dudley. "There have been cherry pickers and large salt piles, and about 32 skylights which light up a very rural area and cause high light pollution,” said Mr Longhi.

He has written to the chief executive of South Staffordshire Council to register his objection.

“Information I have received suggests that previous planning conditions, as well as the main purpose of the original site, have not been complied with,” he said.

“I would urge the Local Planning Authority to defer any decision on this application until such time that the original application can be assessed for its validity and that activities presently being carried out are lawfully compliant with said application and its approval.”

Mr Longhi added: "Our precious green belt is under constant attack and what we are seeing here is an underhand tactic by a developer who appears to have obtained a planning consent from South Staffordshire Council stating that the land was always operating as a builders yard. Residents locally confirm that it has always been land for horse grazing.

“They now wish to change the use of this land again and it wouldn’t surprise me if in the not-so-distant future, this land having become a brownfield site, might be turned into land for residential development. It is incumbent on South Staffordshire Council to rectify this situation.

“I am disgusted at what is happening and will be writing to the planning ombudsman, the environment agency, Dudley Council, as well as raising this in Parliament at the soonest opportunity. I would like to urge all local residents to email South Staffordshire Council with their objections and complaints about the current use of the site, requesting that this application is not considered until lawful use is established. Residents can email planning@sstaffs.gov.uk.”

Councillor Terry Mason, cabinet member for planning and business enterprise at South Staffordshire District Council, said: “The earlier planning application for the site, which was approved on March 26, 2019, was dealt with in line with the usual procedures and regulations.

“There is a current live planning application under consideration and we, as the local planning authority, are also investigating certain claims of breaches of previously imposed planning requirements and claims of activity on the site beyond that which has been approved.”

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