Headlines: January 8th, 2007



Countryside campaigners are warning today that new figures from the West Midlands Regional Assembly are further confirmation of the impact of Government pressure for higher levels of house building. The Campaign to Protect Rural England says the majority of more than half a million homes that could be built in the region will be developed on greenfield sites and that the proposals will increase congestion and carbon emissions.

The CPRE says that of three options originally put forward by the Assembly, the Government is backing proposals for 575,000 new homes in the region over the next 25 years, which is the highest number of any of the proposals. The Regional Spatial Strategy, approved by the Government in June 2004, proposed 307,000 new dwellings by 2021 so the new figures would mean an increase of more than 50 per cent over a slightly longer period.In its immediate response to today’s figures, the CPRE warns that building at the newly-proposed level will harm the region in a number of ways, including the loss of an estimated almost 23 square miles of open land, including greenbelt that has served to keep urban sprawl in check and boosted urban regeneration. Other effects predicted by CPRE are further rapid and unsustainable expansion of towns such as Lichfield, Rugby, Warwick and Worcester; the expansion of villages within commuting distance of Birmingham; more people being tempted to move out of the conurbations and a more dispersed population, leading to increased travel, congestion and higher carbon emissions.

In August the CPRE warned that the Government was putting pressure on the Regional Assembly to accept a big increase in house building and today it is publishing a ‘Housing Hot Spots’ map showing the towns and areas most likely to be affected if the Assembly accepts the Government’s figures. Gerald Kells, Regional Policy Officer for CPRE said, “This is not the way to provide homes in the West Midlands for those who really need them. It’s a recipe for indiscriminate greenfield development, social polarisation and countryside destruction.