Residents in battle to save green belt land ‘Devastating’ if fields are lost
MASS house-building south of Birmingham would remove great swathes of green belt land and pile extra pressure on community services, unhappy residents have warned.
A major campaign has been launched to remove Allocation 13 – an ‘essential’ wedge of open space to the south of the Woodlands estate in Shirley – from Solihull Council’s Draft Local Plan.
On Sunday dozens of campaigners turned out to take part in a walk across the fields, which they fear will make way for hundreds of homes. Almost 2,500 signatures have been collected in a petition.
Organisers the South Solihull Community Group have spearheaded efforts to strike the land from the proposed list of sites which would be earmarked for residential development.
They were joined on the day by the Green Party’s co-leader Sian Berry, who gave her backing to the cause. The local authority this week said that the comments received would be taken into account and a further consultation would be held.
Sylvia Gardiner, who has lived in the area for 30 years, said that the space was well used by everyone from children to pensioners.
“It would be devastating if this goes. The land is a life-saver, it really is,” she said.
“I actually think it’s obscene to even consider taking this away from Shirley.
“My common sense hat would say it’s a done deal, but my human side believes they will understand how important it is to people and they won’t be able to sleep at night if they get rid of it.
“People are always over here, even in the rain and the snow, and it’s fantastic.
“I’m over here every day and I’m not the only one.”
The group were met on the day by Ms Berry, the new co-leader of the Greens, who expressed concern about the proposals. “I can see that this choice of this particular site is quite wrong actually,” she said. “We are seeing far too many bits of green belt being chosen over increasing the number of people who can live in cities, close to public transport.
“We don’t need to see more sprawl, because that will lead to more traffic, it will lead to more people living in car-dependent homes there are other places to build homes that are better linked up with Birmingham and Solihull.”
Allocation 13 was among four sites in the area previously earmarked for a total of more than 2,500 homes, although there are fears higher density development could push the number upwards.
Cllr Max McLoughlin (Green, Shirley South) argued Shirley was on course to take a disproportionate amount of the housing on the horizon.
“This is the wrong place,” he said. “The plans for growth are around the impact of HS2, but the house building is in the least accessible part of the borough to benefit HS2.
“It would take an hour at peak times to get from these houses to HS2. What’s worse is that this location doesn’t have sustainable travel in mind.”
Solihull Council is continuing to work on its latest version of the Draft Local Plan, which will set the blue- print for future development in the borough into the 2030s.
Last month, Cllr Ian Courts, cabinet member for managed growth, warned that public opposition alone would not be sufficient to alter proposals, unless it was backed up by solid planning grounds.
A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “Consultation on the Draft Local Plan finished in February 2017 and the council published a comprehensive summary of all representations that were received.
“The responses will be taken into account as the next version of the plan is prepared and published for further consultation.”
>Front from left: Shirley resident Sylvia Gardiner, Cllr Andy Hodgson, Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, campaigner Shahin Ashraf and Cllr Max McLoughlin as they protested against the development of the land