When Alvechurch and Barnt Green faced an assault on their Green Belt land 18 years ago, this magazine reported the fight by the local planning authority to defend it.
“The battle may appear to be already lost, but Bromsgrove District Council is waving its fist in defiance,” we told readers in February 2000.
The district council even launched a Green Belt Protection Campaign and set up a phone line on which villagers could pledge their support. In little more than one month, 1,647 people had called to register their backing for the council’s fight.
Fast forward to 2018 and concerned villagers are seeing a completely different attitude at the district council, with the person in charge of strategic planning for Bromsgrove telling people the Green Belt is not “sacrosanct”.
He says the GL Hearn study, which outlines an idea for a new town of up to 10,000 homes on land between Alvechurch and Barnt Green, is “a piece of evidence”, the “veracity” of which will be tested by Bromsgrove planners.
What has changed so much in 18 years that the council has gone from fighting to protect the Green Belt to willingly considering such an extreme idea that would create a town bigger than Bromsgrove itself and change our villages forever?
We know a case has been building for a number of years that this country needs more homes (although there is a counter-argument that it is the “broken” housing market, whereby residential property has become a business, that has pushed prices beyond the means of many would-be home-owners).
As such, it has been accepted that some small pockets of Green Belt will need to be sacrificed and the Neighbourhood Plans being drawn up by local volunteers across this area reflect this.
But this “piece of evidence” is not talking about a few small patches of Green Belt, it is eyeing up a whole town-full.
We agree with those who say the Hearn study should be put on the shelf and ignored until Bromsgrove has finalised its own local plan, choosing for itself which pieces of Green Belt it may give up, rather than giving developers a great swathe of our beautiful countryside on which to gorge.