Politics being played over green belt homes plan, says councillor

Councillors have been "playing politics" over calls for thousands of homes to be built on Shropshire green belt, it has been claimed.

The plan for around 3,000 homes centres on land to the west of the village of Tong.
The plan for around 3,000 homes centres on land to the west of the village of Tong.

Shropshire Councillor for Shifnal, Ed Bird, was speaking after it was revealed that Dudley and Walsall Councils want to see a major development – for 3,000 homes – built on land to the west of Tong and north of Junction 3 of the M54.

The councils say they do not have enough space for new homes within their own boundaries, and want Shropshire to meet some of their shortfall through the Tong project, put forward by the Bradford Estates, but previously rejected by Shropshire Council.

Shropshire Council has offered to provide 1,500 homes but Dudley and Walsall want that figure increased to 4,500.

The controversial move has come in the form of an objection to Shropshire's local plan, which sets out where 30,800 houses and 300 hectares of employment land will be developed across Shropshire by 2038.

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The local plan is still in the process of being officially approved. It is expected to be signed off by the middle of next year.

Last week, Councillor Robert Macey, Shropshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Housing and Strategic Planning, warned they would not be dictated to by their Black Country neighbours over what can and cannot be built in the county.

Councillor Bird said it had been a "robust response", and that he is confident that Shropshire Council would be able to fend off any legal challenge from Walsall and Dudley requesting that the Tong project goes ahead.

Councillor Bird also suggested that Walsall and Dudley had undermined their own argument through their membership of the Association of Black Country Authorities, which has responded positively to the Shropshire contribution to their shortfall of housing.

He said: "Councillor Macey has reiterated that the local plan does not, and as far as Shropshire Council are concerned, will not include developments at Junction 3 of the M54 near Tong, and that this had already been agreed by the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA), of which Dudley Borough Council are included.

"The final outcome is determined by a government inspector, but given this agreement with ABCA already exists, any legal challenge by them or a Black Country Council would be completely undermined.

Disproportionate

"I believe that there are a few local councillors playing politics unfortunately."

Councillor Bird said that the Tong proposition stood out as "completely disproportionate" for the area.

He also paid tribute to local campaigners who have argued against the scheme.

He said: "From the outset I have lobbied Cllr Nutting and Cllr Macey, in meetings, email and telephone conversations I have had with them.

"They have always supported my case and that of Tong Parish Council and its chair Cllr Fisher that the development at Junction 3 is completely disproportionate for such a small hamlet.

"I would also like to thank Shifnal Matters and ATM54 who have campaigned against this, raising its profile in the press and with the public.

"As others have pointed out, its not over yet, it could be subject to an appeal, but I am confident that if that did occur, Shropshire Council would win."

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