COUNCIL plans to develop greenbelt land across Coventry are a ‘step closer to reality’ after a public inquiry lasting months, say opposition councillors.
A ‘warning’ that it amounts to a ‘developer’s charter’ comes from opposition Tory councillors who say, despite ‘significant opposition from local residents’, a Planning Inspector overseeing the inquiry has proposed only minor alterations to Coventry City Council’s so-called Local Plan for development.
All councillors will vote on the Local Plan on March 14, which would then go to further public consultation for six weeks before returning to the government-appointed Planning Inspector for final approval.
Long-standing plans for more than 20,000 homes would see Coventry build on ‘up to 10 per cent’ of greenbelt to accommodate population expansion and forecasts that would take city inhabitants to well over 400,000 by 2030.
Tory councillors representing Woodlands specifically point to plans for 2,250 new homes built on greenbelt land at Eastern Green, a new shopping centre the size of Canon Park, and several hectares of land for warehousing similar to that approved at Lyons Park off Browns Lane.
They said: “Until now, the greenbelt status of Eastern Green meant that planning applications for large scale developments were likely to be rejected by city planners. However, this decision means that bulldozers could move onto greenbelt land at Eastern Green within months.”
They argue brownfield sites should be developed before any greenbelt land is released, and have concerns about the impact on the transport network.
Labour council leaders have argued the Tories in power at the Council House before 2010 made similar proposals to green belt use, before the coalition government ripped up previous regional plans and forced councils to go back to the drawing board.
But Coventry Conservatives are calling for as review of population growth estimates which lie behind the Local Plan, in light of the UK’s imminent withdrawal from the European Union.
Woodlands councillor Gary Ridley, said “This announcement will be deeply worrying for many people who will feel betrayed and ignored by this failing Labour-led council. This could have a huge impact on the local transport network and public services.
“We remain opposed to this plan and we’ll work towards achieving the best possible outcome for local residents. What we need is a local plan for local people – not a developer’s charter.”
Councillor Julia Lepoidevin said; “Much of the ‘evidence’ presented to the inquiry was based on erroneous projections about population growth. It’s also based on a real optimism about the ability of existing infrastructure to cope with these changes.”
Councillor Peter Male said; “This plan is a developer’s charter. Once the greenbelt is gone it’s gone forever yet this plan contains no safeguards for the greenbelt in the event that the economy slows or in light of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
“Greenbelt sites are cheaper to build on and they’re easier to market so it seems pretty obvious to me that on day one of this plan developers will head straight for Eastern Green.”
The Coventry Observer has contacted Coventry City Council’s Labour leaders for comment.