‘SAVE Halesowen’s Countryside’ campaigners who hope to stop the area’s green belt land from being used for future development have received backing from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

From January, contractors appointed by the four Black Country borough councils will search for sites where a possible 22,000 properties and 300 hectares of industries can go to meet the region’s growing population by 2036.

Conservative mayor Mr Street has written to the Tory-led Dudley Council to urge the local authority to commit itself to a ‘brownfield first’ policy – a major pledge he made in his bid to become mayor earlier this year.

In his letter to council leader Cllr Patrick Harley, which has been seen by the News, Mr Street said he understands the “very considerable pressure” local authorities are under to meet future housing needs, but hopes the borough can meet those needs from “within the existing urban area”.

He said he supports the views of the Halesowen Abbey Trust members – who are heading up the campaign – so the land can “continue to enjoy the protection it warrants”.

Halesowen News:

Halesowen Abbey Trust campaigners Roy Burgess and Mick Freer are calling for politicians, councillors and the public to help ‘Save Halesowen’s Countryside’.

Mr Street wrote: “First, I recognise well the very considerable pressure all West Midlands local authorities are under to meet future housing needs.

“Indeed the approach recently agreed under the Housing and Land Delivery Plan is one we both endorse. Therefore I welcome the renewal of the Black Country Core Strategy, especially given the more ambitious growth we are now anticipating.

“Similarly, we are both committed to the policy of “brownfield” first, and are encouraged both by the existing Land Remediation Fund, and the prospect of further funding under a future “Housing Deal”.

“With this in place, I share your hope that Dudley will be able to meet the huge majority of future housing demands from within the existing urban area.

“If this is not the case, I hope that a judgement on the value and effectiveness of “greenbelt” can be applied.

“In that respect, I support the views of the Halesowen Abbey Trust that the land they refer to is of particular importance, providing a valuable local amenity as well as beautiful green space.

“Therefore I very much hope that Dudley Council will be able to agree that no “exceptional circumstance” condition will be met, and that the land can continue to enjoy the protection it warrants.”

Mick Freer, project coordinator of Halesowen Abbey Trust, said: “We have his [Mr Street’s] support and that of [Halesowen Conservative MP] James Morris.

“We hope their lead will encourage other politicians to follow suit. Andy and James do not have the authority to stop this, but councillors do.”

Dudley’s green belt review – as part of the Black Country Core Strategy – is expected to be debated by councillors next autumn.

Cllr Harley told the News that carrying out the review will identify the green belt land which is “most valuable to the community” which he said could then be protected from development.