Seven Cornfields: Mayor urges councils to lay off the green belt
Andy Street has rubbished claims that the development of greenbelt land in the West Midlands is inevitable, as he urged local authorities to stick to his "brownfield first" policy.
The region's mayor has waded into the row over the controversial Seven Cornfields housing estate plan, calling on councils to focus all developments on old industrial sites.
He also praised campaigners for their efforts to block the development, which would see 1,300 homes built on 284 acres of greenbelt land near Penn Common, between the Black Country and Staffordshire.
Developer Barratt Homes, which has an agreement with the land owners for the plot, insists it is inevitable that green belt land will be built on due to a shortage of old industrial sites to meet the region's need to build 215,000 homes by 2031.
But Mr Street disagrees, telling the E&S that the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) would use all of its powers to prevent green belt development.
“I do not accept that development on the green belt is ‘inevitable’ yet, there is a very long way to go before we get to that point and there is a lot we can do to try and avert it," he said.
"The combined authority and I have been absolutely clear that we are pursuing a ‘brownfield first’ policy that focuses on remediating former industrial land, not building on greenbelt.
"Thanks to significant funding from Government we have hundreds of millions of pounds to spend to do just that, and a recent example of our work can be seen on the large site off Cable Street and Steelhouse Lane in Wolverhampton.
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"This approach allows us to bring derelict land back into use for housing, but more importantly it allows us to protect precious green belt land."
The Seven Cornfields plan has sparked a campaign to stop it that has been backed by politicians from various parties, while a petition objecting to the proposals has nearly 4,500 signatures.
Mr Street added: “This is a much-loved part of Wolverhampton that is clearly very important to the wider community, and it is brilliant that the community and different political parties have come together to campaign to ensure it is protected.
"I have been very impressed with the Save the Seven Cornfields campaign and would like to congratulate everyone who has been involved and helped to achieve a great deal in just a short space of time.
“Due to the WMCA not being a planning authority, we are restricted in what we can do and what powers we have.
"In order for our ‘brownfield first’ policy to be successful we rely on collaboration with local councils who hold the powers when it comes to approving applications.
"I am working closely with Wolverhampton Council and the other six councils across the WMCA’s met area to make sure ‘brownfield first’ is a reality – not just a slogan."
Mr Street has also pledged to work with developers over schemes on old industrial sites, and recently announced a deal with developer Lovell that will see 4,000 new homes built on brownfield land.
The Mayor is holding a public meeting on the Seven Cornfields issue next week.
He added: “I want everyone who has concerns over the plans to come to my Ask Andy public meeting next week where we can talk directly about this specific plan, as well as the wider greenbelt issue.”
The event takes place at St Bart’s Church in Penn on September 25, from 6.45pm.