THE LEADER of Stratford District Council has moved to dispel fears green belt land across the district could have homes built on it in the future.
Earlier this month, the authority finally rubber-stamped and adopted its Core Strategy, which outlines where around 14,800 homes will be built by 2031.
The key planning document is expected to be subject to a review within the next five years to ensure it is up-to-date and in line with existing policy.
But the council has come under fire after members of its Cabinet voted to accept the findings of a Green Belt review carried out in conjunction with neighbouring authorities.
Tanworth Resident Association chairman Tom Ross maintains the review identifies parcels of green belt land around Alcester, Studley, Henley and Stratford, which could be removed, if necessary, in the future.
And although designed to prevent urban sprawl, Mr Ross fears these parcels of green belt land could in fact make way for homes when the Core Strategy is reviewed a few years down the line.
He told The Observer: “Stratford District Council has gone through a painful and expensive process to get its Core Strategy in place.
“Naturally, most of the attention was on the number of homes required while this Green Belt review was not publicised much at all.
“The council is keen to park it in the long grass and I feel it has form for slipping things through when no-one – councillors or residents – realises the full significance.
“People living in the identified areas of green belt land, which are prime candidates to be removed, will not be happy if in five years time they are told it was all discussed and agreed in 2016.”
But council leader Chris Saint was quick to defend the accusations.
He stressed no decision had been made concerning the removal of any land from Green Belt nor was there any intention to withdraw any parcels of land based on the review alone.
But if it was deemed necessary to develop within the Green Belt in the future, he maintained the review would help provide evidence to consider which land was most suitable, while other factors – from existing nearby homes to the natural beauty of an area – would also be taken into account.
Coun Saint added: “We have not put any land at risk of development and the study does not identify parcels of land the council ‘accepts’ should be taken out of the Green Belt when the Core Strategy is reviewed.
“Fundamentally, that was not the purpose of the study, so it is not the case a decision has been ‘voted through’ as to which land is suitable for future development.
“Plans are plans, and studies may assess matters but they do not carry any weight. Our plans do not take out any parcels of land from the Green Belt for housing and any other suggestion is being alarmist.”