Housing developer says green belt release is inevitable
A housing developer says it is inevitable green belt land will be lost – as it controversially eyes up a piece of land for 1,300 homes.
Barratt Homes has entered into an agreement with the land owner of Seven Cornfields, Wolverhampton, to develop proposals for housing.
The green belt land has been put forward for review as part of the Black Country Plan, which is looking at new areas for homes in the region to address a shortage.
However the proposals have attracted strong opposition from residents who have raised concerns about the impact on local infrastructure and wildlife.
A spokesman for Barratt Homes West Midlands said: “The joint Black Country Core Strategy (which is now the Black Country Plan) is at an early stage and the councils have signalled a desire to build 78,000 homes by 2036.
“We know from their own analysis that brownfield sites can only accommodate up to 66,500 homes so it seems quite clear that some green belt release will be required across the conurbation.
“The Black Country authorities are responsible for this process and have asked for sites to be submitted.”
The spokesman added: “We believe that some of the Pennwood site (the Seven Cornfields site) could be a suitable location for development and have put it forward for consideration.”
Around a third of the site sits on the Wolverhampton border, which is why the land has been included in the Black Country Plan.
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However a large chunk of the land exists in the south Staffordshire district. This means that there are two different planning authorities for the 284-acre site.
South Staffordshire Council is also looking at new areas for housing. But it has not yet confirmed whether it is interested in the Seven Cornfields site.
An announcement is expected next summer.
A campaign group – which was launched after the plans were revealed at a public meeting last week – has now amassed more than 3,100 members.
And a petition objecting to the proposals has now attracted more than 4,000 signatures.
The petition’s founder, Liberal Democrat campaigner Nick Machnik-Foster, has written to the council leaders of Wolverhampton, South Staffordshire and Dudley over the proposals.
The letter reads: “As leader of your local authority who are involved in these plans can I ask that you come to the site, walk the site with us and then meet concerned residents.
“I understand that planning issues are quasi-judicial but residents bordering the site have not been involved or consulted in the planning of this development are angry about the lack of engagement.”
Two more public meetings are planned over the proposals with the first, hosted by Wolverhampton MPs Eleanor Smith and Pat McFadden, taking place at St Bart’s Church, Penn, on Thursday at 8pm.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin has also voiced his opposition to the proposals. The now-independent MP said: "I am completely opposed to these plans.
"This is precious open land between Sedgley, Wolverhampton and Staffordshire – it is loved and used by lots of local people who are very worried about plans to build on it.
"We need more housing, but there are plenty of brownfield sites which should be used.
"I will be writing to every local resident on the Northway about this, I’m writing to Dudley Council, Wolverhampton Council and Staffordshire Council urging them to oppose these plans.
"I am asking to meet Barratt Homes and I’ll be doing everything I can to support local residents to prevent this land being used for housing.
"No one wants to see the land between Sedgley, Penn, Baggeridge and Wombourne swallowed up with new housing."
Meanwhile West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is holding a meeting at the same church next week on Wednesday, September 25, at 6.45pm.
Organisers are expecting more than 100 people to attend.
A meeting was also held last week by Blakenhall councillor Paul Birch, who represents the ward on Wolverhampton Council, where around 100 people attended.
The meeting was one of his regular surgeries which he holds for residents in his ward, but due to the large crowd which turned up he dubbed the meeting a "super surgery".