Campaigners hit out at Black Country councils over Shropshire green belt housing demands

Campaigners fighting to protect Shropshire's green belt from large-scale housing development have hit out at two Black Country councils pushing for thousands of homes to be built there.

John Moore of Shifnal Matters has hit out over the demands from Dudley and Walsall councils
John Moore of Shifnal Matters has hit out over the demands from Dudley and Walsall councils

Shifnal Matters says other authorities should not be trying to force huge numbers of new homes onto “beautiful Shropshire countryside”.

It comes after the leaders of Dudley and Walsall councils came out in opposition to Shropshire Council’s draft local plan this week, saying it did not do enough to help other authorities in the West Midlands with their shortfall of development land.

They say plans put forward by Bradford Estates for a 3,000-home settlement near Tong at junction three of the M54 should be included in the new local plan to assist the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA), which is unable to meet its future housing needs within its own boundaries.

Shropshire Council decided against supporting the scheme earlier in the plan process, saying it could not justify taking the land out of the green belt.

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The draft plan does however already include 1,500 homes within its total of 30,800 to be built across the county by 2038, to help towards ABCA’s shortfall as part of a legal ‘duty to cooperate’.

Shifnal Matters spokesman John Moore said: “While the development at junction three commonly refers to 3,000 homes the site is in fact large enough for more like 15,000 and also includes 50 hectares of industrial allocation."

He added: "There are also competing local developments proposed at Cosford and Shifnal and many, much more attractive sites in Telford, South Staffordshire and at i54.”

Objected

In identical submissions to Shropshire Council’s local plan consultation, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council leader Patrick Harley and Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said they objected to the plan over the decision not to include the Bradford Estates development.

Shropshire Council leader Peter Nutting said he was “disappointed” with the objections and pledged to fight any attempts to increase Shropshire’s contribution to ABCA’s targets, while Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said: “Shropshire is not Dudley and it never will be.”

The final stage of public consultation into the new plan ended last month and it will now go before councillors for approval to be sent for government examination. It is expected to be adopted next year.

Mr Moore said the question of whether ABCA really needs other counties to provide homes or business sites was “contentious”, adding there was nothing in the local plan evidence base to support the need for Shropshire to make a contribution.

He said: “Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, has said on many occasions that there are enough brownfield sites for their needs and no need for green belt development.

“Telford & Wrekin also rejected the call for homes to support the Black Country because there was no evidence that that was the case.

“Shropshire has already included in their plan 1,500 homes specifically for the Black Country authorities but this is also not supported by any evidence and will likely be an item that is challenged at the inspection of the plan by Shifnal Matters, Shifnal Town Council and CPRE.

“It is not widely understood that as well as brownfield sites, Dudley has a large areas of greenbelt land to the west of the conurbation.

“So, what sense does it make in times of concern about climate change to create a commuting community in Shropshire for the Dudley area, over 20 miles away?”

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