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Seven Cornfields: 'Death-knell' ruling on green belt homes plan

By Thomas Parkes | Wolverhampton | Property | Published:

Campaigners against controversial plans to build on the Seven Cornfields have been given a boost after it was revealed the site has not been included in a council’s housing proposals.

The Seven Cornfields site covers 240 acres of green space that provides a buffer between Wolverhampton and Sedgley

Barratt Homes may be forced to admit defeat in its bid to build a giant housing estate on land around Pennwood Farm, a 240-acre plot of green belt land that covers part of South Staffordshire and Wolverhampton.

Bosses at the company said the South Staffordshire section of the scheme – which takes up two-thirds of the plot – now seemed unlikely to proceed after the district council left it out of new housing plans.

It is understood that a scaled down ‘Wolverhampton-only’ scheme could now be drawn up.

Consultation

A report to South Staffordshire Council identified a need for 8,845 homes in the area by 2037, but the preferred option for developments does not include the land near Penn Common.

Instead council chiefs will focus on new developments in areas including Penkridge, Codsall, Bilbrook and Perton, along with ‘urban extensions’ using land in neighbouring authorities.

The plans will go out to consultation before a final decision is made next year.

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

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But the report appears to cast serious doubt on the future of the Seven Cornfields scheme, which emerged after Barratt Homes entered into an agreement with the landowner for 1,300 homes on the land between Wolverhampton and Sedgley.

The proposed development prompted a huge public backlash, with residents, campaigners, local councillors and MPs calling for it to remain a green space.

The potential development of the plot was due to be examined by South Staffordshire Council next summer, but the plans were ‘called in’ early for scrutiny by councillors.

Dave Whitfield, of Penn, is one of many residents campaigning against the plans

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According to the Spatial Housing Strategy report, chiefs at the authority intend to build 60 per cent of its housing requirement within the district, with the other 40 per cent potentially built on green belt sites north of Wolverhampton.

Council bosses say the proposal – known as Option G in the report – will help the authority “strike the right balance” between using green belt land and preserving it.

In response Barratt Homes conceded there was “little” in the report to support a “major development” on the South Staffordshire element of Pennwood Farm, but stressed it had not given up hope.

The firm is set to undertake a detailed review of the plans in the coming days to decide whether to continue to “promote” the South Staffordshire element of the scheme.

'Major win'

Lib Dem campaigner Nick Machnik-Foster, who set up a 6,400-strong petition against the plans, said: “This awful development is now facing its death-knell.

"I promised the community that we would strain every sinew to oppose these plans and today is a major win for our campaign.

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“But we cannot be complacent. We must keep up the pressure. And make sure this plan is consigned to the bin forever.

"It is now up to the other councils to call this terrible plan in and my message to the developers is drop this proposal before you throw good money after bad.”

Stuart Anderson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Wolverhampton South West, said: “It is fantastic to see South Staffordshire take the lead on this and make it clear that they are against development on this site.

"We know that Barratt Homes has the option of a Wolverhampton-only development, so it is now down to Wolverhampton Council to signal its opposition to homes on its part of the site.”

The council’s report said its preferred option would “ensure a sustainable pattern of development is delivered, whilst also ensuring green belt release is minimised and avoids the most sensitive areas of green belt wherever possible”.

However, it warns that some green belt would be developed, including areas “of high or very high harm in Codsall, Bilbrook and north of the Black Country conurbation”.

Homes would also be allocated near to conservation area in Penkridge, the report says, while developments on the western edge of the Black Country “may involve allocations in close proximity to a registered park and garden”.

Public feedback will be used to amend the proposal before deciding on the final plan. No specific sites have been discussed so far.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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