Birmingham Council’s threat to the West Midlands Green Belt

In September CPRE produced a report revealing plans to build some 80,000 new homes in the Green Belt. A month later Eric Pickles, said at Conservative Party Conference: “Protecting the character of the countryside is stamped deep into the heart of Conservativism. And I want to be absolutely clear: the Green Belt plays a vital role in stopping urban sprawl, and we will protect it.”

One could be forgiving for asking who is telling the truth, CPRE who say the Green Belt is being significantly eroded, even given current protections, or the Communities Secretary, who says he will protect it?

To be clear, I believe that Eric Pickles sincerely believes in the Green Belt, and is one of the best supporters of the countryside within the Cabinet.  But I think he is deceiving himself if believes that the Government’s policies are not putting an intolerable strain on Green Belt protection.

This week I was sent a good example of what is happening on the ground by Gerald Kells, CPRE’s policy officer in the West Midlands.

For years Birmingham City Council has resisted building houses on the Green Belt.  But now it has issued a consultation document which says that, based on twenty year projections of population growth, it needs 10,000 Green Belt homes.  It wants to export a further 20,000 homes to neighbouring authorities, almost certainly threatening other parts of the West Midlands Green Belt.

The City Council acknowledges that it can already build over 40,000 homes on brownfield sites, and new brownfield land is always coming available.  So why not develop available brownfield sites before going for land in the Green Belt?

Nearby Coventry is under very similar pressures but seems to be sticking to a brownfield policy, and local authorities in the Black Country are desperate for more brownfield development and the regeneration it brings.  If Birmingham builds on the Green Belt, probably around Sutton Coldfield, it will be undermining places like Walsall and Wolverhampton, which desperately need an economic boost after years of losing manufacturing jobs.

When the number crunchers have done their business and produced their plan to meet the top down housing targets this Government said it would abolish, house builders will build precisely the number of houses they think they can sell.  So Birmingham’s plans risk a triple whammy: eroding the Green Belt and undermining urban regeneration, without making any meaningful contribution to solving the country’s housing crisis.

You can comment on the plan from 5 November, provided it is not called in by Mr Pickles.

1 Response to “Birmingham Council’s threat to the West Midlands Green Belt”

  1. 1 Against The Gateway November 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Coventry green belt is also currently under pressure I’m afraid. They may be sticking to a brownfield policy for housing but there is threat in the south east from the proposed Coventry & Warwickshire Gateway Development. Councillors are being seduced by highly inflated job and investment claims and a huge swathe of green belt (740 acres) could be sacrificed for another logistics park and another technology park that the region doesn’t need.

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