COVENTRY council plans to build homes on 10 per cent of Green Belt should be suspended to allow a comprehensive review of brownfield alternatives, Tories say.
The Conservative opposition at Coventry City Council has today said it wants a fundamental independent review of brownfield sites, and that all Green Belt sites should remain protected in the meantime.
Tory group leader John Blundell has questioned whether the council’s figures for the availability of brownfield sites is accurate – and says more might be done to build more homes in already built-up areas.
The Labour-controlled council should not sign-off any housing development on any Green Belt land it owns in Coventry or across the borders into Warwickshire until the review is concluded, added Coun Blundell.
The council has consulted on its draft Local Plan which proposes 25,000 new homes for Coventry by 3031 including around 17,000 on browfield, and around 18,000 overspill on sites across the border.
Leading Labour councillor Kevin Maton has said the plan is 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.
The draft Local Plan figures have been drawn up in conjunction with neighbouring authorities after a government planning inspector ruled Coventry’s earlier plans for around 12,000 homes was too low, and would have a disproportionate knock-on effect for other West Midlands council areas.
Several indendent consultations have also assessed the city and region’s housing needs.
The plan is for 6,600 new homes on ten per cent of Green Belt land, in Keresley and Eastern Green, prompting huge protests in recent years.
Coun Blundell last month criticised the proposed consultation period, which gave the public just six weeks to state their views rather than three months.
Today he said: “There needs to be a comprehensive independent re-evaluation of how many homes we can geniunely build of brownfield sites. All proposals for Green Belt should be suspended until then.
“It should be an independent review with a more focused remit, to allow us to properly understand what the possibilities are for Brownfield sites.”
He claimed the data behind the draft Local Plan was also flawed because it failed to incude a rigorous assessment of homes being bought to let to students and others, rather than for traditional family use – creating real problems with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HiMOs).
Coun Blundell added: “There is an urgent need to bring in a planning policy to control the amount of small HiMOs (3 to 6 tenants) that are springing up everywhere in Coventry particularly around the two universities.”
The Tories say the draft Local Plan also lacked detail on how roads, schools, hospitals and other services could be provided to serve new homes and estates.
Former Labour council leader, coun John Mutton, has pointed out the Tories had forgotten their own plans prior to 2010 were to build on green belt in Keresley and King’s Hill, and for a population of over 400,000.
Coun Maton claims 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 has also said the government would step in and find Coventry’s plans were “unsound” if the council did not press ahead with its own already much delayed Local Plan.