Res­i­dents in bat­tle to save green belt land ‘Dev­as­tat­ing’ if fields are lost

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - David Ir­win Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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

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