Plans to build thousands of Shropshire homes now to help Black Country are resisted

Calls to build thousands more houses in Shropshire now to accommodate the needs of the Black Country are being resisted.

Protestors outside the Local Plan review hearings in Shrewsbury
Protestors outside the Local Plan review hearings in Shrewsbury

Shropshire Council and barristers representing housing developers came face to face during the first day of two weeks worth of hearings into the local plan.

The council is not saying it won't do its bit to help provide for the needs of Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton, but it is saying it's too soon to add to current commitments.

The draft Shropshire Local Plan already provides for 1,500 homes in the county to help the Black Country provide for its population. And they council says it is too soon to add any more to that.

Matthew Reed, a QC for Bradford Rural Estates, said Shropshire Council must consider the four Black Country authorities and their needs. He said the council's assessment of sustainability objectives had been inadequate and failed.

Hugh Richards, a QC for Shropshire Council, told planning inspectors that the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA) is in the process of putting together its plan.

"It is putting together its evidence base and consulting. A plan has not been submitted for examination or examined," he said.

It is expected that ABCA will have a need for tens of thousands of houses that it cannot meet from within its own boundaries.

Mr Richards added: "We do not know yet what the unmet need will be from the Black Country. We know what it might be but don't know where it will end up."

He said that to add to the 1,500 homes and 30 hectares of business use already in Shropshire's plan to meet Black Country needs would be premature.

The Black Country Plan is set to be published late summer/autumn 2022, when all four Black Country councils will be asked to approve it for consultation.

Using government methodology for calculating such numbers, the Black Country has a need for 3,761 new homes each year or 71,459 homes in total over the Black Country Plan period from 2020-2039. This calculation is updated annually.

Mr Richards said the council will assist meeting unmet need in "some amount or another based on existing relationship of connectivity with the Black Country".

"We have not assessed meeting all the unmet need that might arise from the Black Country in our sustainability appraisal," he said.

"Shropshire Council will take part in the wider discussion over what more it could appropriately do and it may end up doing more. This not for this plan, but the next plan."

But Mr Reed said the Black Country has a need to provide 11,000 out of 76,000 homes outside its area.

"To say that Shropshire won't assess beyond 1,500 is extraordinary," he added.

The Black Country Plan (previously Black Country Core Strategy) is a planning and regeneration plan for the whole of the Black Country, which is signed up to by the four Black Country Councils.

The plan is now being reviewed to meet the new challenges and opportunities for the coming years, up to 2038. Councils have a legal duty to co-operate with each other on their development plans.

The hearings also heard debates on where to build 30,000 homes, and the reasoning behind where to build them. It is being proposed that Shrewsbury will take the bulk of developments.

Speakers also criticised the council for 'failing to assess the impact on climate change'. But the council said it had ways to reduce the need to reduce climate emissions.

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