Campaigners fight plans for 1,500 new homes on farmland
Campaigners opposed to a housing development on agricultural land in the Black Country have promised to "fight for every blade of grass".
The vow came at a public meeting between residents and councillors to oppose a submission to develop 1,500 houses on Foxcote Farm, in Wollescote, near Stourbridge.
More than a hundred people turned out to hear of the proposals of the Black Country Core Strategy – which has said Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall will need to build 80,000 housing and commercial developments over the next 20 years.
Consultants have predicted Dudley needs 20,000 more homes – a figure campaigners claim is inflated and means green belt land will have to be included in the final list of approved sites.
It has sparked anger among councillors and environmentalists who say a realistic figure would allow the council to use brownfield sites to meet housing need.
The plan for 1,500 homes on Foxcote Farm was submitted after Dudley Council asked for landowners and developers to put forward suitable sites for development.
Ward Labour councillors, Gaye Partridge and Tim Crumpton, told residents the issue not only affected Wollescote but every ward in Dudley.
Councillor Crumpton said: “Our problem with this is that in the past few years we have come nowhere near building that number of houses we have been told we need.
“That means that the brownfield sites we do have for development have not been used.
“But what they have now done is say we need another 20,000 houses.
"When you bring in those set of houses your brownfield sites can’t cope, won’t be enough to meet those needs and that puts at risk your green belt because you would have to start to look at using green belt to put those number of structures in place.
“We we want to do is look at what is a sensible number of houses we can build over the next few years.”
Councillor Partridge, adding any proposals for new sites would have to go to a public enquiry, said of the Foxcote Farm proposal: “If it does go to public enquiry we will be fighting for every blade of grass.”
Opposition to the proposal has already won cross-party support in the council.
Councillor Simon Phipps, Conservative cabinet member for procurement, transformation and commercialisation, speaking after the meeting said: “This is not a party political issue though it is a very, very political issue.
“It is to do with planning, it is about the legal process on how we meet local plans but the will is there to work with the community and work across parties to show we have all the evidence to show we shouldn’t be building on the green belt.”