Councillor’s Warn on South Staffordshire Plans.
Mary and I recently attended a City of Wolverhampton Vibrant City Scrutiny Panel, where the future of Wolverhampton Housing strategy was discussed by City Councillors.
There is a big push being organised over the next decade for more housing to be constructed across the nation. Here is what was being discussed on the 11th April 2019.
The Government has set a housing target nationally of 300,000 new homes per year by 2026.
The Government have set out where their priority locations are for new homes.
As part of the targets it is anticipated that 50,000 new houses will be needed across the West Midlands conurbation. The seven district and City Councils, have set themselves in what is the Black Country Core Strategy, a further target of 63,000 additional homes to be delivered over the period 2006-26 to accommodate the conurbations growing population.
Currently the City Council own around 22,000 homes through its Wolverhampton Homes company.
The target for new dwellings in Wolverhampton is set at 13,400 homes or 640 homes each year. 5640 homes have been built up until 2018. This is 16% above the target
The Black Country strategy aims to provide a minimum 550 new affordable homes each year.
Much of Wolverhampton commitment for new homes will be based in three action areas. Bilston corridor, Stafford Road area action plan, and Wolverhampton City Centre action planning area.
There are currently smaller sites that are being developed in Wednesfield the newly announced Marches site in Lakefield Road (246 dwellings) and the Danesmore site 52 homes now almost completed in Ashmore Park.
South Staffordshire District Council also has a housing plan. That is currently being put together and it will I am informed be ready for consultation soon. It is this plan that holds the most contentious issues for Wednesfield.
Its known already that people from Wolverhampton have been moving towards South Staffordshire for a number of years statistics inform us that between 2013-2017 6,240 people moved from our city to South Staffordshire that is 12% of all moves. With 4,460 making the move in the opposite direction.
It was against this backdrop that both Mary and I warned the Scrutiny Board to be aware of our growing concern about developers eyeing the current green belt and agricultural land that runs the boundary between Essington and Wednesfield.
We warned that the local residents in Wednesfield North were very strongly against the loss of what they see as the Wednesfield and Wolverhampton North Easts ‘Green Lungs’.
Proposals being mooted by developers suggest that they want to build 2,500 homes within South Staffordshire but on land that is used and enjoyed by Wolverhampton and Wednesfield residents for leisure amenity, wildlife and heritage walks.
This land is fronted by Linthouse Lane and Kitchen Lane and Woodend Road.
Mary and I warned our colleagues on the Scrutiny Panel on the 11th April 2019 that this type of action would be very much withstood by the three Wednesfield North Councillors. We told the Panel that we are waiting to see what the South Staffordshire plans actually says.
We informed the panel that whilst we were in favour of using ‘brownfield’ site for building new homes. We were very much against the loss of Green Belt amenity in an area like Wednesfield which already suffers from below average green space. We made it very clear that we felt that it was dangerous discussing the issues, when a major part of the plans going forward was not part of the briefing. Those plans were the South Staffordshire District plan, which had not yet been published.
We warned that we had widespread public support in Wednesfield for articulating the concerns that were being ventilated now by us.
There was a real concern that the Village of Essington would be moving quickly into and towards Wednesfield, if 2,500 homes are allowed to be constructed on the site close to Kitchen Lane and Linthouse Lane in Wednesfield.
I also warned the Panel that it was dangerous to bring a Housing and Strategy briefing note and presentation, to the Panel. When the important South Staffordshire Preferred Option Consultation paper was not amongst the briefing notes for Panel consideration. Mary and I spoke powerfully with regards to this issue. We requested Wolverhampton’s officers go back and amend proposals reflecting the statement and review the comments that your Wednesfield North Councillors made.”
South Staffordshire will use the results of their study, and other evidence they have commissioned separately, to select preferred sites for their next stage of consultation.
The next stage is the “Preferred Options Consultation”, which was programmed for March/April 2020.