THE ‘unelected’ West Midlands Combined Authority’s ‘growth at all costs’ agenda threatens more green belt, says the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
It follows the recently established West Midlands Land Commission, set up by the WMCA, calling for evidence this month on the availability of land for development in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire.
Coventry Conservative opposition councillors are also concerned over the call to developers and other interested parties to provide evidence of the ‘costs and benefits of Green Belt land’ to ‘unlock land for development.’
CPRE in the West Midlands says it reflects a “growth at all costs’ approach that sees the Green Belt, areas of high quality landscape, nature conservation, tranquillity and the environment generally as barriers to development rather than valuable in their own right.”
It claims the proposals are based on the WMCA’s economic growth forecasts well beyond the government’s national expectations for the next two decades.
The CPRE adds: “These economic plans have been drawn up by organisations with a vested interest in growth, without any consultation with wider interests or the general public.
“They therefore cannot be relied upon to provide a balanced view of how the West Midlands should develop.”
Mark Sullivan of CPRE added: “The danger is that these proposals will flow through into local plans, and that by the time people start to object it will be too late to stop this juggernaut.
“The West Midlands Combined Authority is not an elected local authority responsible to voters, being made up of Council Leaders meeting together. It has set a timescale for submission of evidence which is so short (21 days, closing on 30 September) that few if any members of the public or local community organisations can meet it, even if they get to hear of the Commission.”
The announcement comes months after Coventry City Council announced plans to build over 5000 homes.
Councillors Julia Lepoidevin, Peter Male and Gary Ridley who represent Woodlands ward fear the review may lead to even more greenbelt land being “seized by developers in Coventry”.
Coun Ridley said: “I love Coventry and I want it to determine its own future – not be dictated to by Birmingham.”
The WMCA, whose chief executive is Coventry City Council chief executive Martin Reeves, says it aims to create 500,000 additional jobs and five per cent higher economic growth than the national average by 2030.
It claim that lack of land supply is constraining growth is contested by the CPRE, which points to brown field availability.
WMCA adds: “The role of the West Midlands Land Commission is to take a fresh look at matters affecting the West Midlands land supply.
“It will consider what measures could be initiated and undertaken to ensure an improved supply of developable land.
“The West Midlands Land Commission is independent, and is seeking to adopt an evidential and diagnostic approach.”
The Commission is expected to report back with its recommendations to the WMCA Board by the end of next year.