AMBITIOUS plans to create a mega-industrial development bringing around 6,000 jobs and generating investment of more than £300 million have been condemned as “theft” of Halesowen’s countryside.

Dudley Council is to explore the potential for an enterprise zone on historic greenbelt bordered between the M5 at junction 3 and Manor Way.

Tonight’s cabinet meeting will authorise a study into the use of the land as a major strategic employment site.

This work will form part of the wider West Midlands approach around the creation of a Combined Authority to help drive jobs and growth across the West Midlands. But Hales Owen Abbey Trust secretary Mick Freer described the plan as “theft” and condemned it as “the most serious threat to this countryside in a lifetime.”

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “One of the key issues which has hindered large scale inward investment in Dudley has been our lack of significant readily available employment sites near to motorway junctions.

“We have now identified an area of study that has the potential to attract up to £300 million of investment and to create over 6,000 new jobs which would be a major economic boost to Dudley borough and allow us to play a key role in the regional growth agenda for the West Midlands over the next 10 years.

“The land is on the motorway junction which would provide excellent transport links and create much-needed jobs but we will of course put the whole proposal out to full public consultation.”

The council is remaining tight-lipped over the acreage of countryside being considered but its jobs and investment predictions are based on similar schemes such as the 239-acre i54 site in Wolverhampton.

Mr Freer demanded “full disclosure” from the council fearing the proposal would destroy the Landscape Heritage Area close to the ruined 13th century abbey.

He also said he feared neighbouring countryside and views from Clent Hills would be spoilt and the heavily-congested A456 and other roads would be unable to take the extra traffic.

He warned it could be a catalyst to the revival of the Kidderminster, Blakedown and Hagley Bypass and the Western Orbital Route. He added: “It may be that a tunnel or flyover would be needed at the Grange island.”

Halesowen North councillor Hilary Bills implored the council to consider brownfield sites instead and fellow ward councillor Karen Shakespeare added she feared the existing road network would be unable to take the strain.

Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris said he had “profound reservations” about the choice of site, in terms of the impact on greenbelt, proximity to historic sites and congestion.