COVENTRY council leaders have been accused of seeking to ignore public opinion and railroad through controversial plans for 25,000 more homes including on green belt.
The attack came from the Conservative opposition at a full council meeting this afternoon in which Labour leaders presented their long awaited draft ‘Local Plan’ for development up to 2031.
Leading Labour councillor Kevin Maton said the plan was in line with national forecasts for Coventry’s rapid population growth, and the council’s ambitions to grow to become a “top ten city”.
Growth at that rate would give Coventry a population of more than 420,000, with a proposed 88,000 new homes in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Coun Maton said Coventry’s new draft Local Plan – drawn up in conjunction with neighbouring councils – included 6,600 new homes on ten per cent of Green Belt land, in Keresley and Eastern Green.
There have been huge protests against such plans in recent years.
Tory group leader John Blundell said the proposed consultation period – giving the public just six weeks to have their views rather than three months – was a “disgrace”.
He also attacked the stated scope of the public consultation, which he said would only allow for “minor amendments to correct errors and for clarity” following the public’s views
He said it showed Labour leaders had already decided what the outcome would be in a “fait accompli”, in a similar way to their approval for Coventry to join the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The Tory opposition called for a re-evaluation of whether more homes could be built on brownfield. Coun Blundell said most of the apparent demand for homes, from Office for National Statistics projected population data, came from inward migration and students at the city’s two expanding universities.
He said the reality was more homes were being bought to let to students, rather than for traditional family use – creating real problems with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HiMOs).
Conservative councillors also lined up to 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 then council leader, coun John Mutton, said the Tories had forgotten their own plans prior to 2010 were to build on green belt in Keresley and Kings Hill, and for a population of over 400,000.
The Tories said the draft Local Plan also lacked detail on how roads, schools, hospitals and other services could be provided to serve new homes and estates.
Conservative councillor Julia Lepoidevin highlighted the case of Bannerbrook housing estate of 2000 new homes.
She said commitments there when planning permission was granted – for health services and a school – had not materialised.
Coun Maton said the Local Plan would “impact on every woman, man and child living in Coventry now and in the future.”
He added: “This is a process and set of decisions that will not be taken lightly.”
He 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.
He said the government would step in and find Coventry’s plans were “unsound” if the council itself did not identify potential development sites – which the council says would lead to a potential free-for-all for developers.
Coun Maton said no land would be developed beyond Coventry’s western-most built up areas. He therefore suggested the original purpose of Green Belt – of preventing urban sprawl in areas between towns and cities – would be honoured.