Green belt land will not be developed under Wolverhampton's major housing plan, leader confirms

Green belt land across Wolverhampton has been saved with none of the sites set to be allocated for development in a housing plan, it has been confirmed.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, who heads up the authority, said the priority would be to utilise brownfield land in the city's version of the Black Country Plan.

The original plan spanned the four Black Country areas but was binned after Dudley Council decided to pull out, citing a reluctance to use green belt land.

It had identified a need to build more than 76,000 homes overall in the area by 2039 with more than 7,700 on the protected land, sparking fury from residents.

But now each authority will be drawing up its own version of the programme, with Wolverhampton saying no green belt sites would be utilised for homes.

Councillor Brookfield said: "Only 11 per cent of land in Wolverhampton is green belt and keeping as much of this green belt as possible is hugely important to our new climate strategy and supporting our carbon neutral challenge.

“Up until now Government planning policy would not permit us to leave green belt land alone – we had to consider it and indeed use it to meet housing targets – and, may I add, totally unrealistic housing targets laid down by Government – thankfully, the Government has finally seen sense.

“We have always promoted a brownfield first approach to our Local Plan, so, I am delighted to announce - subject to approvals - we intend to bring forward a Wolverhampton Local Plan with no green belt sites at all allocated for development.”

The move follows an announcement by the Government of changes to national planning policy, subject to a public consultation period. The most significant of the planned changes is that councils putting together the major plans will not be required to review, and alter, green belt boundaries to meet the housing need.

A number of sites across Wolverhampton had been earmarked for development under the initial Black Country Plan, including a site on Northycote Lane in Bushbury which was lined up for 182 homes.

Land next to the Grapes Pool, off Moseley Road, Bilston was earmarked for 85 homes, prompting a campaign by residents and councillors to save it. A total of 124 homes were planned for a green belt site south of Moseley Road in Bushbury, while the site of the old Northicote Secondary School and its playing fields could make way for 178 homes.

The former Alexander Metals site on The Lunt has also been put forward, with a suggested scheme featuring 70 homes and a new park.

Councillor Brookfield added: "Following the decision of Dudley Council to withdraw from the Black Country Plan – this council is fully committed to preparing an up-to-date Local Plan for our City.

“We brought in a new Local Development Scheme in October last year which committed the Council to an ambitious but realistic programme to adopt a Wolverhampton Local Plan.

“We have been reviewing the responses made to the Wolverhampton elements of the Black Country Plan and updating the evidence to support the Plan’s policies as part of this process.

“We anticipated consulting on the Wolverhampton Plan in February / March of this year - but as a prudent and responsible council, we need to consider the full implications of the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) before we progress the Wolverhampton Local Plan.

“This means we will not be consulting on the Local Plan until after the new national planning policy framework is published by the Government in spring, and we will be asking cabinet to consider a response to the NPPF consultation this February.

“Up to now potential sites for development have been earmarked and during that process our focus has very much been on selecting sites available within the urban area and minimising the impact on the green belt and the environment by not including sites like the Seven Cornfields.

“Our focus is on developing brownfield sites, which we have an excellent track record in doing when funding is available to remediate the land, such as Bilston Urban Village, Springfield Campus and Canalside.

“The Wolverhampton Local Plan will provide a vibrant mixed use city centre while enabling new housing and employment opportunities on brownfield sites across the city, supporting local centres and strengthening the local economy.”

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