In an unexpected twist, advocates opposing the South Staffordshire District Council’s (SSDC) local plan have won significantly. The contentious plan, which aimed to allocate an astounding 9,000 homes primarily on green belt areas throughout the district, has been temporarily halted.
The council leaders have chosen not to submit the latest version of the plan to the government until new national guidelines regarding housing figures are released.
The Save the Lower Penn Green Belt group is leading the fight against constructing 500 homes in their area. They are relieved by the recent development, and Ken Crane, a prominent member, expressed his satisfaction with the council’s decision. He highlighted that it demonstrates a willingness to consider new information and adhere to updated government guidelines. While he acknowledged that this pause should have ideally happened when the plan was initially voted on in November, he believes it’s better late than never.
The decision to pause the process was praised by Steve McEwan, the group chair. He emphasized the importance of collaboration with councilors and SSDC to base future housing requirements on current evidence. McEwan also stressed the need to listen to and address residents’ concerns regarding specific sites. It is a relief to see district councilors finally taking into account the concerns of their constituents.
On the other hand, resident John Harper is cautiously optimistic about this decision. While he sees it as fantastic news, he still has reservations about the council’s ability to protect the green belt. Kerrie Richards shares these concerns and firmly believes that sacrificing valuable green belt land for housing is a misguided action. She hopes planners and counselors will take this opportunity to prevent further environmental harm.
Lower Penn Parish councilor Nigel Cox sees this decision as a significant win in the ongoing fight to protect the green belt. Advocates have strongly argued that the housing targets outlined in the plan were no longer relevant. They also consider it unfair to expect South Staffordshire to accommodate 4,000 new homes for neighboring authorities.
During the consultation period, Goldfinch Town Planning Services, a planning consultancy firm, voiced their concerns about the proposed plan. They expressed apprehensions regarding its viability and potential impact. Specifically, they highlighted the possibility of significant environmental damage in sensitive open countryside areas if the plan proceeded unchanged. Their concerns shed light on fundamental flaws within the evidence base the Local Planning Authority used to support this extensive development proposal.
Laura Smith, the founder of a group opposing the proposed development of hundreds of homes in Wombourne, expresses her disappointment that approximately 30 councilors still support the plan, even after the collapse of the Black Country Plan. She highlights the importance of having accurate housing numbers and removing proposed sites for ethical and environmental reasons. She believes protecting green belt land and reevaluating discounted brownfield sites should be top priorities.
During a parliamentary session, MP Sir Gavin Williamson expressed his concerns about the current situation regarding housing development in South Staffordshire. He believes that the duty to cooperate system is causing local authorities to construct houses in inappropriate areas, which directly impacts our countryside and green belt. Sir Gavin Williamson described this issue as highly problematic and emphasized the need for immediate action.
Terry Mason, a member of the South Staffordshire Council’s cabinet for planning and business enterprise, addressed concerns regarding the duty to cooperate and the potential release of green belt land. He emphasized that the council will prioritize seeking clarity on the new national proposals before submitting the local plan for examination.
The postponement of the housing plan for 9,000 homes is undoubtedly a significant win for the campaigners. It’s a clear victory for logic and fairness, as residents spoke out against a plan they deemed unreasonable. The fight to preserve the green belt persists, and this pause represents an important stride towards a more considerate and equitable approach to housing development in South Staffordshire.