A prospective Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority has come under fire from a Solihull borough MP, Dame Caroline Spelman, after he attacked Solihull for its wealth and pledged to build a ‘significant’ number of homes on local green belt land in order to meet regional demand for new private and local authority housing.
The criticism came after Sion Simon, the Labour Party candidate, suggested that Solihull MBC is refusing to co-operate with its neighbours to accommodate housing overspill from Birmingham and Coventry - which is factually incorrect – in a debate on Monday evening.
Dame Caroline, who has consistently backed new legislation to protect the green belt said: “Solihull acknowledges that it has a duty to co-operate with its neighbours to help meet demand for housing, and for that reason Solihull MBC recently consulted on a bespoke local plan to meet housing need - which includes additional provision to assist Birmingham and Coventry.
“Whilst I acknowledge that the future West Midlands Mayor will have the power to remediate brownfield land for the purpose of new house building; a responsibility which could help protect the green belt, they do not have any planning powers or the power to pressure individual member of the Combined Authority into taking more than their fair share”.
“In addition to this, Mr Simon has failed to acknowledge that Solihull has in recent years, already sacrificed much of its green belt in order to support strategically important regional and national infrastructure such as the NEC, the expansion of the runway at Birmingham Airport and the expansion of Jaguar LandRover. This is on top of the planned construction of HS2 and remodelling of Junction 6 of the M42 in the coming months.
“For that reason, I would urge candidates to consider how to best use the £200million remediation fund at their disposal to develop a region-wide strategy to prioritise the clean-up of brownfield sites, which the Mayor should prioritise before we build on green belt.
“Our borough council made it clear when we joined the West Midlands Combined Authority that Solihull is not there for the combined authority to 'cherry pick’ in order to meet other local authorities housing deficit and I stand by that message”.