CAMPAIGNERS say they will fight “tooth and nail” against any plans to use Halesowen’s historic countryside for new housing and business developments.

Halesowen Abbey Trust secretary Mick Freer has slammed proposals which could see green belt land being built on, claiming it would be a “disaster” for the town.

The ‘Save Halesowen’s Countryside’ protests come following the launch of a public consultation into the Black Country Core Strategy – which has revealed nearly 80,000 new homes need to be built across the region in the next 20 years to cope with increases in population.

Leader of Dudley Council, Councillor Patrick Harley, said the idea of building on green belt land will come under discussion when deciding where to place the new developments, but would be seen by the council as a “last resort”.

He added: “But something has to give, and there is no point burying our heads in the sand. We are clearly going to have to make some tough decisions on where these 22,000 new homes should go.”

Back in 2015, the Halesowen Abbey Trust put up similar protests when the green belt land off junction three of the M5, which includes Halesowen Abbey and Lapal House, was earmarked for a 260-acre enterprise zone.

But Mr Freer claims the current situation is “far more dangerous” as the Black Country Core Strategy is made up of all of the region’s councils.

He said: “Dudley Council has delegated all its responsibility to perhaps two planners each from the four councils and to contractors. It is a disaster.

“We must remember that Dudley Council’s planners proposed that awful enterprise zone in Halesowen’s historic countryside landscape, as their contribution to the function of the emerging combined authority.

“Our best hope here rests with the combined authority mayor, Andy Street. He declared prior to his election that he was opposed to greenbelt development.

“The situation is dire and we have very limited time for the local community to come together, as the consultation concludes on September 8.”

To have your say in the public consultation visit

The trust’s protests have once again been backed by politicians and councillors from across parties, with Halesowen’s Conservative MP James Morris saying: “Back in 2015 I teamed up with local residents, community groups and councillors to fight plans which would have seen our beautiful green belt in Halesowen turned into an industrial site.

“Unfortunately we now find ourselves in a situation where the future of this precious community asset is being debated again.

“Over the summer I will be meeting with local councillors and residents to talk about what we can do to ensure that the future of our greenbelt is protected for future generations, and encourage as many local people as possible to take part in the council's consultation.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that I will fight any proposals to build on our green belt with tooth and nail, and that we should be prioritising brownfield sites, of which there are still plenty across the whole of the Black Country.”

Halesowen North Labour councillor Hilary Bills added: “We had all this with the enterprise zone plans. As long as junction three is still in the Black Country Core Strategy then we are going to have these issues time and time again.

“The area must come out of it. The land isn’t just green belt, it has significant historical value.

“There is the Abbey, Lapal House, William Shenstone House – this is historical land that should never even thought about being built on.

“We know what will happen if they plan to build on the land. It will get rejected by the council’s planning committee and then go to the planning inspectorate. But they will reject our decision as it’s part of the core strategy and they will say we don’t have a leg to stand on.

“It needs to be taken out of the strategy right away.”

On Saturday, August 12, Halesowen Abbey Trust are organising a walk to start at 9.30am from Woodgate Valley Park, led by Roy Burgess, to show those interested in the quality of the countryside, which is under threat by the proposals.

Mr Freer added: “The walk provides the foreground for the celebrated Clent Hills and the value of the hills, in a beautiful setting, will be seriously damaged if development is allowed.”

Search ‘Save Halesowen’s Countryside’ on Facebook for more information about the campaign.