Express & Star

Planners: Move to build new estate on wildlife corridor should go ahead

Council planners have said a controversial move to build a new estate on much-loved green space should go ahead.

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The proposed layout of a 60-home plan next to the M5 in Oldbury

The green light could now be given to destroy a wildlife corridor in Oldbury to make way for 60 homes with Sandwell Council looking to approve controversial plans for the 100-year-old green space next to the M5 in Oldbury.

The council’s planning committee meets next Wednesday to make a decision – with the authority’s planning department recommending in a report that the plan be approved.

A report, published ahead of the meeting, said the new homes were “an appropriate reuse of brownfield land which would deliver a much-needed mix of affordable housing.”

A total of 28 objections were made against the plan by residents, according to the same report.

Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust raised “several concerns” about the application – saying the full impact that building new homes would have on “priority” habitats had not been properly assessed.

The council’s public health department also raised concerns about the poor air quality that future residents would face in new homes built next to the M5 and called for the application to be refused. Public health officers said the long-term use of the land as housing was “questionable” but planners said this carried “little weight” and recommended the plan should be accepted.

The council said the land failed to meet the criteria for it to be classed as a site of ‘local importance for nature conservation’ and its ecological value was “limited.” The green space having no public access meant its benefits were “restricted.”

Planners said they had conclduded the land was “highly unlikely to warrant any specific protection.”

The new plans for the  space returned just four years after campaigners fought off a move that could have seen the wildlife-rich land lost forever as part of a move to build new warehouses.

The land behind the Asda supermarket off Wolverhampton Road is home to badgers, foxes and birds and acts as an important barrier to protect homes from M5 pollution, according to residents, but campaigners were faced with a fresh battle when development plans were put back on the table by housing developer Countryside at the start of the year.

A mix of one-bed flats and two-to-four-bed homes have been included in the plans by Countryside. At least seven trees would be cut down to make way for the new homes, the application said.

But while the green space was so highly sought by locals that they battled to protect it, the application by Countryside called the space “brownfield, derelict and vacant.”

Campaigners had won what was described as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle with London-based developer Canmoor for two industrial units, loading bays and service yard in 2019.

A petition boasting more than 20,000 signatures was handed to Sandwell Council’s planning committee, which rejected the application. Countryside argued the new homes would help address a “critical need” for affordable housing across Sandwell.