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Save the Seven Cornfields petition signed by 2,000 in two days

By Jamie Brassington | Wolverhampton | Property | Published: | Last Updated:

A campaign group fighting plans to build on green belt land on the outskirts of Wolverhampton has attracted around 2,000 members in just 48 hours.

Pennwood Farm, within The Seven Cornfields, photographed in 2011

It comes after it was revealed 1,300 homes could be built on 284 acres of farmland near Penn Common, an area known locally as the Seven Cornfields.

The proposed development would effectively fill the green buffer between Wolverhampton and Sedgley and remove open space enjoyed by tens of thousands living in the area.

A petition set up this week has attracted more than 2,000 signatures in two days, while more than 2,000 people signed up to a Facebook group called Save The Seven Cornfields within 24 hours of its creation.

A planning document outlining the area of land which developers are eyeing up

No formal planning application has yet been made for the land, although developers have been invited to submit housing proposals for the land as part of the Black Country Plan. Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes have shown an interest in building on the site.

The issue was raised at a public meeting in nearby Blakenhall, hosted by councillor Paul Birch.

Concerns - what do residents think?

Residents have spoke of their concerns on the impact to local infrastructure and wildlife. There are also concerns that schools in the area would not be able to cope with extra numbers.

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The Seven Cornfields is green belt land stretching from Colton Hills Community School, the Beacon Centre in Sedgley, The Barley Mow Pub and Penn Golf Club.

It is made up of woodland, farmland, a dirt road and footpaths, which are frequently used by local residents, and have been for decades. Woodland nearby, including Alder Coppice Wood, is ancient and contains rare bluebells.

Campaigner Josie Hadley has called for a mass ramble through the cornfields to make people's feelings known.

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She said: "I'm happy to help organise a mass ramble if someone knows the pathways? We need to re-instate the rights of way."

Around 100 people attended a meeting about the plans this week

Mark Duckham said: “There is no doubt that there is a call of additional housing, but not at the cost of the environment, not at the cost of nature, not at the cost of our woodland.

"Abandoned buildings and factories threaten the integrity of neighbourhoods – developers should consider to develop these derelicts buildings first and not concreting over green land.”

Tom Cuddeford added: "I was born and bred on the doorstep of the Seven Cornfields and Bluebell Wood. I spent many happy years as a child exploring these areas and playing with friends there.

"I still walk my dogs over the area regularly. I am totally opposed to this proposal. There are plenty of Brownfield sites that could be utilised instead in the locality.

"It’s all about profit and not for the benefit of future local generations who would lose this lovely location for exploring the countryside near such a large conurbation that is the West Midlands."

Ian Turley said: "We cannot afford to lose valuable green belt space and the wildlife it supports when there are so many brown spaces undeveloped in the same area."

Green belt

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield said a recent change to government legislation means that landowners can now put forward land – including green belt such as the Seven Cornfields – for development.

The Black Country Plan, formerly known as the Black Country Core Strategy, is a review which was published jointly by Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils in 2017, identifying a housing shortage in the Black Country.

Council spokesman Oliver Bhurrut said: “Around a third of this privately-owned site sits within the City of Wolverhampton boundary.

“It is one of many sites that have been put forward for consideration for development across the Black Country as part of the Black Country Plan review.

“The review involves the consideration of a range of evidence and no decision has been made on which sites will be included in the draft Black Country Plan for public consultation to be released later next year."

The land was put up for sale in 2011 at a price of £1.6million, which consisted of a farm and 283 acres.

'Green belt concreted over'

Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith said: "This area is an important, wildlife-rich, green space close to Wolverhampton’s Penn Common and Bluebell Wood. Wolverhampton has to treasure these spaces.

"The proposed development will be squeezing new buildings into the beautiful area between Wolverhampton and Dudley and will impact our education, health, and transport resources, and add to the traffic issues here.

"Of course we need new homes, but they cannot be built at the expense of the existing residents and communities. They should complement and contribute to the area."

Liberal Democrat campaigner Nick Machnik-Foster said: "We cannot allow the green belt to be concreted over like this.

"These plans will lead to the destruction of a beautiful area and cause chaos to the neighbourhood's infrastructure. Our roads cannot cope as it is.

“The plans were cooked up behind closed doors and no one knew anything about it. There is total anger in the community. This area means a lot - to so many people – people have happy memories of walking and playing in this area and that is all now at risk.

"We cannot let our green belt become a concrete jungle. The area is one of the green lungs of this part of Wolverhampton and the local councils seem desperate to take it away."

Penn councillor Paul Singh added: "“This will have a massive impact on my residents in Penn. The proposed 1,300 houses basically means another 2,500 cars on the road – how is that helping the environment? What about the extra school places that will be needed? Will GP surgeries be able to cope with the huge increase in patients?"

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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