Coventry City Council plans to build homes on up to 10 per cent of the city’s greenbelt are set to get the green light after a government-appointed planning inspector approved the ‘Local Plan’ after years of work.
It plans for more than 25,000 new homes over the next two decades including on the green belt, notably in Keresley and Eastern Green.
The Local Plan is a blueprint for which areas of the city will be used for housing, employment and other uses up to 2031.
The inspector’s approval means it is set to pass its final hurdle at a full council meeting on December 5, and discussed a week before by the ruling Labour cabinet on November 28.
Coventry’s Labour leaders want the city’s population to grow to around 420,000, with jobs to support migrants to the city.
But critics including Conservative opposition councillors say the flawed assumptions are based on suspect and unsustainable official population growth figures, and fail to address the real impact of the student population.
The council has stated its ambitions in recent years for Coventry to become a “top ten city” in population size, with more residents paying council tax to support services and boosting the local economy with their spending.
There have been huge protests against such plans in recent years, especially from Keresley residents were thousands of homes are planned.
Opponents say more homes are being bought to let to students, rather than for traditional family use which are predominantly built on Green belt – creating real problems with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HiMOs).
Conservative councillors also attack Labour councillors’ “u-turn” – after pledging to voters after coming to power in 2010 that they would protect all green belt and green fields.
The former council leader, councillor John Mutton, has said the Tories had forgotten their own plans prior to 2010 were also to build on green belt in Keresley and other sites, and for a population of over 400,000.
Opponents have criticised the draft Local Plan at various stages for ‘lacking detail’ on how roads, schools, hospitals and other services could be provided to serve new housing estates.
Labour council leaders have claimed that Green Belt, once released, would not be developed unless there was demand in future, and growth would be supported by a sustainable plan for new jobs.
But a Tory group statement in response to the inspector’s approval this week states: “Conservative councillors believe it’s premature to implement this plan without reviewing the type of housing needed first. Such a study is set to be undertaken by the council in 2018.
“Conservative Councillors believe that brownfield sites should be developed before any greenbelt land is released.
A six-week period in which a legal challenge can be launched will follow (the council meeting) then the plans will be fully adopted. This will pave the way for planning applications on the green belt immediately.
Conservative opposition leader, councillor Gary Ridley, added: “Once the greenbelt is gone it’s gone forever and we need to develop our city sensitively and for the benefit of local residents. What we need is a local plan for local people – not a developer’s carter.”
Labour councillor Linda Bigham, cabinet member for community development, said: “I’m really pleased that the Local Plan has been approved by the Inspector.
“This is great news as it’s really important for the city to have an approved plan for growth and development that balances our ambitious plans for Coventry alongside protecting our most sensitive green spaces.
“It means that we have a robust document to work with alongside developers and investors to get the best for Coventry.
“The approval is the culmination of years of hard work from our teams and some brilliant partnership working with our neighbouring authorities to ensure that the plan benefits everyone living in the area. Not having an approved plan is not an option as it would mean house builders could submit plans for land anywhere in the city.”