Dudley pulls out of Black Country Plan for 76,000 new homes

Dudley Council has controversially pulled out of the Black Country Plan after the four authorities could not agree on how it would progress.

The regional plan was created to identify housing and employment land needed to meet the Government’s target to build 76,000 new homes across the four boroughs by 2039.

More than 7,700 homes were set be built on green belt sites under the plan, which has been mired in controversy since its inception.

However, Dudley has now pulled out of the coalition with Walsall, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton, causing the other councils to declare their disappointment and surprise.

Earlier this year, almost 20,800 people across the Black Country responded to consultation on the plan, and a further 18,000 people signed petitions. The vast majority were from Dudley.

Following the enormous amount of feedback, Dudley leaders have since said they would pull two sites from the plan – land south of Holbeach Lane, Kingswinford, and land in Swindon Road, Wall Heath.

But after the Black Country authorities failed to come to agreement, Councillor Patrick Harley, the leader of Dudley Council, said he could not allow the “overwhelming” feedback from the public to be ignored.

Therefore, he has pledged to recommend to Dudley Council’s cabinet that the authority should withdraw and create its own plan.

Councillor Harley said: “At every stage of this plan we have made it clear that it must be led by the people who live here.

“I simply cannot stand by and allow decisions to be made which are contrary to the overwhelming feedback we have already received.

“This is clearly a very emotive subject and people feel very strongly about it. I must reflect that in the decisions I make for the people of this borough.

“We will therefore look to go it alone and look at what is needed to support a Dudley-specific plan and setting out the timescales for that."

He added: “A lot of the work we have carried out to date is still very relevant so it is not a matter of starting from scratch.

“There’s a huge amount of feedback already from residents in Dudley borough and it is important we use that moving forward. But rest assured we will listen to local people and put them first at every stage of this plan.

Reacting to the news, Walsall Council leader, Councillor Mike Bird, said: “I am surprised by the unilateral action that Dudley Council has taken today.

“Together with Dudley and our other neighbours across the Black Country we have been working hard to find a way forward to plan for our future development needs.

“We are facing major challenges to meet the Government’s target to build 76,000 new homes across the four boroughs by 2039.

“Working together we have heard the views of more than 20,000 people and at every stage we have come together as four councils to plan for the future, observing statutory processes throughout.

"Dudley’s unexpected and unilateral action today goes against our agreed, collaborative approach."

He added: “We will take time to consider our options in light of their decision; I commit today to bring a report to a future cabinet meeting to set this out clearly for our residents and businesses.”

Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “We are surprised and very disappointed that Dudley Council has chosen to unilaterally withdraw from the Black Country Plan.

“This goes against our agreed collaborative approach of working together on planning issues for over 15 years and could result in wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds and huge amounts of time already spent on progressing the Black Country Plan to an advanced stage.

“We’ll now turn our attention to working with people we can trust to meet our legal requirement to prepare a Local Plan that delivers the necessary housing and employment land in a sustainable way - and provides certainty for our communities, businesses and stakeholders.”

Leader of Sandwell Council Councillor Kerrie Carmichael said:“The four Black Country councils have been working together on a joint plan to meet future housing and employment needs to 2039.

"The Leaders of the four councils are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss this issue and so we are surprised by the statement from the Leader of Dudley Council that they have withdrawn from the Black Country Plan.

“The Government has set challenging targets for new housing in Sandwell so it’s important we progress planning for Sandwell’s future housing and employment needs whilst continuing to listen to the feedback and information that we receive from businesses, residents, investors and other stakeholders.

“We will be carefully considering our options over the coming weeks to ensure the best solution for Sandwell’s residents and businesses and are likely to make a formal decision on the way forward shortly.”

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