OPPOSITION is mounting to Coventry’s ambitions to be a ‘top ten city’ with up to 36,000 new homes – including on ten per cent of the city’s Greenbelt.
After years of election pledges to voters to block Greenbelt housing development, Coventry’s Labour leaders U-turned last year.
It came after a government inspector ordered them to consult with neighbouring councils over earlier plans for just 11,000 new homes.
Council leaders have since embraced proposals for at least 23,500 homes by 2031, “to become a top 10 city again”. Coventry is the 13th largest UK city.
The figure could rise to 36,220 – a quarter up on the city’s current housing stock – which is the latest figure from consultants examining how Coventry and Warwickshire councils should divide 80,000 new homes.
But the council’s business, economy and enterprise scrutiny board has been informed of widespread public opposition since September’s shortlist of more than 150 potential development sites in Coventry. A public consultation is now due to end later this month.
Noisy protest is escalating in Eastern Green and in Bablake ward, where Keresley greenbelt has once again been earmarked for thousands of new homes equivalent to a new small town. It follows major local opposition to previous proposals there for a eco-village of 3,500 homes.
Council leaders say a growing city with more homes means more Council Tax raised to support services amid heavy government funding cuts. They estimate 7,000 new homes would bring £10m more into council coffers.
But Walter Milner, of Save Coventry’s Green Belt campaign said: “There is no benefit in simply having a large population unless you’re looking at total Council Tax income. But even then you’re no better off per head of population because the demand on council services is higher. In the 1970s before industrial decline, Coventry was bigger because we were prosperous.”
He said 3,500 people had now signed petitions against the development plans.
The council estimates there are enough urban and brownfield sites for 16,500 new homes, including apartments for students and young people in and around the city centre.
Much of Coventry’s population growth over a decade to around 333,000 is down to migration and immigration, as well as a growing elderly population and baby boom.
Clive Birch, of Cromwell Lane and Duggins Lane Residents’ Association said: “The vast majority of Coventry’s growth is down to the university, but for every one student arriving, another one leaves. They do not buy houses, and do not stay here.
“We’ve no problem with Coventry growing, but that doesn’t mean 36,000 homes.”
Council officers reported local opposition to plans including:
* Keresley green belt sites, including 800 homes between Tamworth Road, Bennetts Road South and Sandpits Lane.
* Green belt east of Pickford Green Lane and North of Upper Eastern Green Lane earmarked for up to 1000 new homes, and two other nearby sites for up to 500 and 900 homes respectively.
* Green belt for 230 homes west of Cromwell Lane, Burton Green.
Final decisions on preferred sites will await a “joint Greenbelt review” in Coventry and Warwickshire.
The ultimate release of Greenbelt sites in September’s shortlist – called the Draft Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment – is also subject to developers and landowners obtaining planning permission. Not all sites will eventually be built on.
Final decisions on Coventry’s housing targets in its Local Plan are expected to go before a government planning inspector next year after more public consultation.
The credit crunch since the financial collapse of 2008 contributed to a chronic national housing shortage.
The city has a chronic shortage of social housing. Councillors deny campaigners’ concerns that development on green belt will not cater for that demand, but will result in more expensive family homes in the suburbs.