Express & Star comment: Uproar at green belt threat is justified
Plans for a huge housing estate on precious green belt land have led to uproar across Wolverhampton and parts of Dudley borough – and it is easy to see why.
In a city that is not exactly famous for its green spaces, the vast swathes of farmland near Penn Common serve as a welcome retreat for many Wulfrunians.
It has been that way for as long back as anyone can remember, so a proposal to cover it in concrete and build around 1,300 homes there was always likely to be met with a fair amount of concern.
But the scale of the opposition to the scheme is quite marked. Social media has been abuzz with city residents demanding that it is scrapped, and a Facebook page dedicated to that very aim was joined by more than 2,000 people in just 24 hours.
Politicians from parties including Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all raised concerns about the plan.
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The development would effectively fill the buffer between Sedgley and Wolverhampton, ridding the Black Country of a large green open space that is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year.
It must be said that the plan for the housing estate is very much in its early stages.
It is likely that developers are dipping their toes in the water to see what the initial response will be.
But in their quest to investigate potential areas of development, our local authorities are causing widespread alarm.
There is no doubt our leaders will have heard the protests loud and clear.
While there is a desperate need for new homes in the Black Country, the region has hundreds of acres of old industrial land which simply must be used up before we even consider destroying our green spaces.
As is so often the case, the stumbling block is a financial one.
Brownfield land can require decontamination treatment before it is deemed fit to build on.
But this treatment does not come cheap. Although the region’s combined authority has secured a brownfield remediation fund to kick start this work, the whole process needs to be sped up if the West Midlands is to meet its housing needs in the coming years.
Building on our green spaces should only ever be a last resort.
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