Express & Star

Controversial Black Country housing plan ripped up as all councils to ‘go it alone’

A controversial Black Country-wide housing masterplan has been ripped up after a row over which green belt to include.

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The Black Country Plan to build more homes in the area by 2039 will now be split into four

The Black Country Plan identified a need to build more than 76,000 homes across Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell by 2039 with more than 7,700 on green belt land.

But it fell apart when Dudley Council’s leader Patrick Harley pulled out of the scheme, stating he was not prepared to sacrifice green belt land to keep others “happy”.

Now it has been announced the remaining authorities, who have criticised Dudley Council, will go it alone but said it will lead to extra costs and more delays.

Councillor Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, said it was a "great shame" Dudley had decided to withdraw from the proposals – something which was echoed by his fellow leaders.

He added: "The four councils of the Black Country have been working hard to find a way forward for our future development needs. A great deal of time and money has been invested into developing a single Black Country Plan. It is a great shame that Dudley Council has decided to pull the plug. We will now concentrate on developing a local plan for Walsall.”

Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, leader of Sandwell Council, added: "We’re disappointed that the joint approach we have all been working towards for many years has fallen through.

"The Government has set challenging targets for new housing in Sandwell so it’s important we progress planning for Sandwell’s future housing and employment needs whilst continuing to listen to the feedback and information that we receive from residents, businesses, investors and other stakeholders. We’ve now decided that the best way to work towards achieving these aims is to develop our own local plan for Sandwell."

And Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council, added: "Dudley Council’s decision to walk away from the Black Country Plan will lead to delays and extra cost, which is disappointing after the four authorities collaborated over a number of years to progress the plan so far. We will now work with people we can trust to meet our legal requirement to prepare a Local Plan for Wolverhampton that delivers the necessary housing and employment land in a sustainable way — and provides certainty for our communities, businesses and stakeholders.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, who leads Dudley Council, told the Express & Star the decision was "regrettable" but necessary in order to protect the green belt – with the borough able to just about meet its housing requirements without relying on the green belt.

He added the housing needs of other authorities – mainly Wolverhampton – had meant the vital spaces, including The Triangle on Swindon Road and land south of Holbeach Lane in Kingswinford, would be swallowed up for housing.

Meanwhile the Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke MP said local plans could be torn up and "reworked" under the Government's plans to revamp the UK's housing strategy.

He vowed to end the "top down imposition of targets" on councils and told the Express & Star that following his intervention in the coming weeks, local housing plans "may want to be reworked".

Proposals to develop individual local plans will be discussed by Wolverhampton Council on October 19, at Sandwell Council's cabinet November 16 and at Walsall Council's cabinet on December 14.