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Walsall Council leaders vote to exit Black Country Plan

Walsall council leaders were defiant last night as they voted to exit the “defunct” Black Country Plan, and forge ahead with a local plan, following Dudley’s decision to withdraw.

Walsall Council

One Walsall councillor said “the shackles are now off” and several described the change of plan as an “opportunity” for Walsall.

The original plan had been developed by the four Black Country Councils in a collaboration to deliver 76,000 homes by 2039, almost 8,000 of which were earmarked for green belt sites.

However, after over 20,000 people signed a petition against the greenbelt allocations, Dudley council withdrew two greenbelt sites before pulling out altogether earlier this month.

Last night’s special cabinet meeting in Walsall was called to decide how the borough should proceed: to work with the three other councils, or go it alone.

Leader Mike Bird said: “[The Black Country Plan] is defunct as far as we are concerned.”

“I’ll just make it clear so we understand: development on the green belt is not off the agenda.

“We are directed by government.”

However, he indicated there was doubt over central governments method for calculating housing numbers.

He said: “We have written to the previous two secretaries of state to say ‘can you please show me how you’ve worked out the numbers?

“Meanwhile we have to continue with the direction that we’ve had to date from government, and that we have to provide approximately 16,000 houses within the Walsall conurbation between now and the year 2041.

“We also believe this is an opportunity for us to see landowners come forward who have not put their land forward in the past which could alleviate some of the pressures that we may have in sites that are in contentious areas, and indeed, greenbelt sites which are at risk.”

Councillor Gary Perry said: “In some respects those shackles are now off, because although we were wedded to that plan in the sense of developing it in a shared partnership approach, the decision by Dudley has actually helped us.

“Whilst some shackles are removed there is one that remains, and that is the numbers that have been imposed on us by central government.”

Councillor Timothy Wilson said: “I have to say how disappointed I am with Dudley for the time, the money, and the effort that’s been wasted but actually I see it as a great opportunity for us to have our own plan.”

Councillor Mark Statham said: “I welcome the move to our Walsall plan to recognise and better address the needs of Walsall businesses and more importantly Walsall residents.”

Councillor Keir Pedley said: “It should reflect Walsall’s housing needs, develop the numbers required for Walsall residents, underpinned by that brownfield first approach that we all stand by.

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