Our view on the future of the Black Country
CPRE West Midlands has urged local authorities to review their plans to release land from the Green Belt for development.
The Black Country Plan is a joint Local Plan prepared by the four Black Country Authorities (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton), and will direct where new development will be located for the Black Country up to 2039. In its response to the consultation on the draft plan, CPRE West Midlands has opposed plans for nine large new developments on controversial sites in Walsall’s Green Belt, as well as on several smaller site in the Green Belt around Wolverhampton and Dudley. As reported in the Express & Star, more than 7,700 homes could be built in the Green Belt, and thousands of other homes have been earmarked for green spaces that are not officially classed as Green Belt.
While the Green Belt primarily serves a strategic function, we welcome the Plan’s emphasis on its ‘heritage, recreation, agricultural and nature conservation value.’ For many people, the Black Country Green Belt represents their local countryside and is highly valued for recreation. The landscape characteristics of the Green Belt are also important along with key areas of nature conservation and geological importance such as Cuckoo’s Nook in Walsall. To this end, it’s vitally important that the Plan supports ongoing work to improve the accessibility of the local countryside, including tree planting, habitat restoration and footpath improvements, taking advantage of the extensive canal network.
The response also questions the methodology used to calculate the high housing targets used to justify releasing land from the Green Belt (see the CPRE-commissioned assessment of the Black Country Urban Capacity Review).
The policy on climate change is in our view inadequate as it is not a consideration when planning the location of new development – does it lock in car-dependency, for example? Climate change should be a core element of the Plan, including a target for reaching net zero in line with councils’ climate emergency declarations.