What on earth has happened to the leader of our district council? His intervention in the planning deliberations over a Green Belt field at Hopwood is surprising, to say the least.
First things first: it is a field in the Green Belt; it is protected from any harmful development unless an application meets some very tough and specific criteria.
It meets none. If approval was given for any open-market homes, it would shatter a protection that has been keeping bulldozers off our countryside since 1935.
So why would Roger Hollingworth, whose Alvechurch Ward includes Hopwood, speak up at a planning meeting where his own officers have recommended refusal on the grounds above and suggest that on this occasion we should use “common sense” and approve the plan?
His words, according to the Alvechurch parish councillors present, were enough to sway the Conservative members of the committee into indecision, so they deferred the matter while some irrelevant inquiries were made into the status of the site.
Irrelevant because a historic permission for machinery to be parked on the field does not in any way remove the protection of the Green Belt.
The fact there is rubble spread across the surface of the site, making it less appealing, is also irrelevant.
In fact, the council has investigated the “unauthorised laying of hardcore” on the field, but decided it was “not expedient to pursue” this complaint.
Far from urging approval of the plans, perhaps Coun Hollingworth should have been asking the committee to get the rubble removed?
Meanwhile, he says he is acting on the advice of a junior Minister called Nick Boles. Why would Coun Hollingworth want to be doing the dirty work for some Tory idealogue holed up in London?
Coun Hollingworth, while not always popular, has achieved a great deal in his local government career, including turning around Bromsgrove which, when he took over, was viewed as the worst council ever.
In his ward he has done a lot of good, not least helping The Lounge youth project get off the ground – it is unlikely to have happened without him.
Perhaps Coun Hollingworth will change his mind and put our Green Belt before edicts from transient politicos in Westminster, jealous of our countryside.
It would be a shame if villagers were missing one of their most effective advocates after the next council elections.
Thanks for another great year and Happy Christmas to all readers of The Village.