Midlands mayor dismisses Black Country planners' call for green belt review

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has rejected a report by council planners which concluded that a "significant" lack of housing sites in the Black Country's urban areas - producing a shortfall of almost 27,000 homes over the next two decade - justifies a review of green belt boundaries.

Black Country green belt land at Kingswinford. Image by William Randle, Flickr
Black Country green belt land at Kingswinford. Image by William Randle, Flickr

Shortly before Christmas, an urban capacity review was published, as part of a review of the Black Country Plan, which is being jointly prepared by Wolverhampton City, Dudley, Sandwell, and Walsall councils. All four authorities form part of the West MIdlands Combined Authority, which is chaired by Street.

The report forecast a gap between supply and need in the sub-region of 29,288 homes by 2037/38 – 41 per cent of the total homes needed up to that date. Only some of this gap can be accommodated through additional sources of housing supply in urban areas, the document added. 

It found an "identified shortfall", described as "the amount of housing need which cannot be accommodated in the Black Country urban areas", >of around 26,920 homes.

It said the shortfall was "significant", adding: "This is despite reviewing all potential sources of housing capacity, making a series of structured assumptions around density and windfalls, and comprehensively exploring the capacity on occupied employment land in the context of up-to-date employment land evidence."

A large shortfall in the number of sites available to meet the Black Country’s housing need means a review of green belt land is now justified, according to the review.

The report concluded that "it is reasonable to conclude that the exceptional circumstances necessary to trigger a green belt review in the Black Country, in order to meet housing and employment land needs, have been met".

However, writing on Twitter, Street said: "I simply don't accept this report and I will do everything I can to oppose its conclusions.

"We can and will find more brownfield sites to regenerate for homes and we can and will find more sites in town centres for housing."

However, the detailed capacity review said that 7,126 of 12,350 homes allocated in the Black Country Plan on existing employment land are not deliverable.

It said that "many of the occupied employment sites currently allocated for housing are home to businesses which have either invested in their premises and/or intend to remain in situ in the long term, and specifically throughout the new plan period."

In addition, it said that a separate review had identified a need for an increase in the amount of land allocated for employment uses.

The urban capacity study found that sites in strategic centres and an increase in densities could help reduce the housing shortfall, but that "these sources are likely to generate no more than a few thousand homes".

This means that the shortfall remains "significant, at around 26,920 homes", it said.

Last year, transport body Midlands Connect found that improvements across the Midlands, including a new 'Western Strategic Route', could help support the delivery of 50,000 new homes.

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