The controversial West Midlands Combined Authority has announced it’s undertaking a review of the Greenbelt. Known to many as 'Greater Birmingham,' the authority has asked developers and other interested parties to provide evidence of the ‘costs and benefits of Greenbelt land’ to 'unlock land for development.'
The commission has asked for submissions to be received by 30th September - giving interested parties just 21 days to respond to a consultation which could change the region forever.
The announcement comes just months after Coventry City Council announced plans to build over 5000 homes, warehouses and a new retail centre on greenbelt land in the city. More recently, house building plans were also announced on the Solihull border at the Broad Lane flooding hotspot.
A statement issued by the Combined Authority describes the launch of the commission as ‘a key element of the combined authority’s devolution deal’. With the devolution settlement not yet finalised a group of Coventry Councillors fear this is the first step towards a West Midlands regional planning system.
Councillors Julia Lepoidevin, Peter Male and Gary Ridley who represent Woodlands Ward fear the review may lead to even more greenbelt land being seized by developers in Coventry. They’ve written to the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive to ask whether Coventry will be making a submission to the review and how the process fits in with our own local plan.
Commenting on the announcement Cllr Peter Male said; ‘We’ve written to the leadership of the Council to understand exactly how this announcement will impact on us. This development raises concerns about the future role of the Combined Authority and the ability of Coventry to shape its own future. All along we’ve been told that this new organisation is about devolution and won’t take powers away from our own council, yet this announcement suggests otherwise. I’m really concerned that eventually we’ll end up having planning policy being dictated to us by a committee sat in Birmingham.’
Fellow Woodlands ward Councillor, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin said; ‘In Eastern Green alone, the Council want to build 2000 new homes, warehousing and a retail centre all on greenbelt land. This review will raise concerns amongst residents that the Combined Authority may want to develop even more Greenbelt land. Just how much longer will we be able to call this area Eastern Green?’
Also concerned, Cllr Gary Ridley said; ‘I love Coventry and I want it to determine its own future - not be dictated to by Birmingham. We’ve been taken into this Combined Authority without a referendum by Labour and this could be the shape of things to come. Just think about where we might be in the future. If the Combined Authority becomes the strategic planning authority we could become part of a sprawling metropolis stretching from Shropshire to Stratford. Is that what coventrians want for their children?’