Don't take our playing fields! Angry neighbours turn on officers as Bilston homes plan is revealed
Furious residents turned on council officers after plans to build on land in Bilston used by children as playing fields were revealed.
Wolverhampton Council sent out just 100 letters inviting householders living near the former Bilston Leisure Centre site in Prouds Lane to attend a meeting about a scheme to build 40 homes on the plot.
But the letter also referred to a plan to develop the adjoining playing fields, which would double the size of the housing project.
After word got round on social media, angry residents demanded to know why more people had not been invited to Friday's public consultation, as the scheme was much bigger than had been previously indicated.
Housing officers arrived armed with plans for the 40 homes - 10 for social housing and 30 to be privately rented or sold - but faced a barrage of questions about their intentions for the site next to the scout hut and a further proposal to give the adjoining field to Villiers School to manage as community land.
People claimed the council had no right to build on the playing fields and that handing management of the third field to the school would mean there would be restrictions on when they could use it. They were also angry only six days' notice of the meeting had been given.
Residents quizzed the council team about whether the homes would be offered to Bilston people rather than outsiders, including people from London boroughs unable to afford the capital's soaring rents who are increasingly being rehomed further north.
They also raised concerns over increased traffic and the burden on existing facilities in the town from dozens more families moving in.
Officers gave assurances that the council was merely gauging local feeling ahead of a planning application for phase one's 40 homes. They claimed they were told the nextdoor site was used only by dog walkers.
But housing officer Kenny Aitchison insisted: "A balance has to be struck between the considerations of residents and the housing crisis."
The former leisure centre site was initially put on the market but did not sell. It was subsequently taken on by the council's new housing company, WV Living. Recently 1st Bilston Scouts, one of the oldest scout groups in the world, was told its base beside the playing fields was safe from redevelopment following an outcry.
Resident Mick Loydon, 56, of Villiers Avenue, said: "I live a one-minute walk from the site and I didn't receive a letter. It seems there's a policy of building houses everywhere there's a brownfield site which doesn't always work for established communities."
Councillor Page said: "We as councillors have a responsibility to protect that land for children and grandchildren and not sell it off for shekels today so the people of tomorrow can have houses."