Mayor calls on councils to amend Black Country Plan to save green belt

Half of the region's green belt that has been allocated for homes can be saved if council chiefs follow recommendations in a new brownfield study, Andy Street has said.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

An independent review commissioned by the West Midlands Mayor has urged councils to make better use of brownfield sites in the push to meet the region's housing target.

And Mr Street said he believes around half of the 7,700 homes planned for the green belt could be built on old industrial land.

He urged local authorities to urgently amend the Black Country Plan to save the green belt, and said building homes in town and city centres could see "vibrancy" return to run down areas.

Mr Street told the Express & Star: "The review endorses a lot of the work the councils have done with the Black Country Plan (BCP).

"But it does identify ways in which more can be made of existing brownfield sites, resulting in less green field land being taken to meet the region's housing target.

"One of the key areas is strategic centres, where it is clear that we need to increase the pace of redevelopment to take more housing.

"I am hoping the councils respond to this review by amending their plan and are able to protect more of the green belt as a result."

Mr Street said around half of the homes planned for the green belt could be taken out of the BCP, although he conceded that preparing brownfield sites for development would require "major regeneration".

The review, which was carried out by Chilmark Consulting, suggested councils could target sites such as underused car parks and vacant town and city centre buildings for housing.

It said more than 1,000 extra homes could be built in West Bromwich town centre, while around 800 new homes could be created in Wolverhampton city centre by converting floorspace above shops.

Conservative councillor Ellis Turrell said the review "makes a mockery" of Wolverhampton Council's claim that "every inch" of brownfield land in the city had been utilised.

"The council now has a choice between building on large swathes of our city’s greenbelt or reversing the decline of the city centre by boosting footfall," he said.

City council leader Ian Brookfield said the findings of the review reiterated the authority's "brownfield first" message.

He 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.

"While shaping the future of housing and the growth of businesses, we will do everything we can to protect our precious green spaces."

Councillor Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority's lead for housing, said the study was "positive in its tone and shows support for the Black Country Plan".

He added: "Consideration will be given to the suggestions it sets out in terms of the potential for additional brownfield development."

All four council leaders in the Black Country are lobbying ministers to reassess the Black Country's housing target of 77,000 homes.

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