A battle over green belt house building in Coventry will be taken to housing secretary Robert Jenrick to discuss concerns over ‘flawed’ population growth figures.
Cabinet member for housing and communities Cllr David Welsh said he wants the government to be “pressured” on the city’s housing need requirements.
But he’s stopped short of an immediate Local Plan review as a campaign backed by almost 7,000 signatures had called for, with the council now set to push back a planned review in March 2021 a year-and-a-half to December 2022.
Based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, the authority believes it must accommodate 42,400 homes by 2031.
Around 24,000 of these homes are to be built within Coventry – including former green belt land in areas such as Eastern Green and Keresley – with the remainder dispersed into neighbouring Warwickshire authorities.
But opposition Conservatives, campaigners, and a cross-party letter signed by five local MPs including Labour’s Zarah Sultana and Taiwo Owatemi raised concern this is based on inaccurate ONS forecasts and called for an independent inquiry.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr David Welsh said he believed a Local Plan review now could in fact lead to even more homes being built due to national planning reforms which could see requirements rise from 1,230 new homes a year to 2,676.
Discussing the ONS figures at his cabinet member meeting on Friday, November 27, he said: “Government requires us to use ONS figures. We do not have a choice about that.”
He added: “It is about the government changing the way we look at what housing need requires.
“The government needs to be pressured on this. I am going to be asking we organise a meeting with the secretary of state for housing and press that need with the people who have signed the letter.”
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He added he will consider a review of the Local Plan only if a review of the housing numbers does not result in an increase in the current housing requirements.
The meeting fell a day after councillors approved up to 2,400 homes on former green belt land at Eastern Green, one of the sites of contention.
Cllr Gary Ridley conceded that decision meant it was already “too late to save huge sections of the green belt”, but said the Labour group had “passed the buck” on challenging a ‘flawed’ Local Plan which had not done enough to protect those parcels of land.
He said: “Green belt sites should be identified as reserved land which we do not use until we have used those brownfield sites.
“A genuine brownfield first would prevent developers being given permission to build on those greenfield sites which would allow us time to see if those ONS figures are correct.”
Merle Gering, who carried out the analysis of ONS figures, said: “It was blindingly obvious from the beginning of the Local Plan there was no way Coventry was going to grow twice as fast as Birmingham, three times as fast as Warwick and four times as fast as Stratford where the jobs are and there’s reasons for growth.
“There’s no reason why Coventry would have been the slowest in the pack – 228th for population growth at the census in 2011 – and suddenly leap into the top 10.”
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