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West Midlands rules out green belt for housebuilding

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Green belt land will not be made available for housebuilding in the West Midlands, according to draft regional planning guidance produced by the Local Government Association. Instead, 'major urban areas' will be targeted for building in an effort to attract more people into city centres and regenerate brownfield sites.

At least 65 per cent of new housing schemes should be built on brownfield sites in Birmingham, Coventry, North Staffordshire and the Black Country, says the draft, seen by the AJ. This exceeds the government target of 60 per cent.

'There will be no review or adjustment of boundaries at the inner edge of the green belt to accommodate housing development. Some adjustment of the inner green belt boundaries may, however, be acceptable in order to provide opportunities for selective employment development, ' states the draft document, Moving Forward - Towards a Spatial Strategy for the West Midlands Region.

Rose Poulter, head of economic and social affairs at the West Midlands Local Government Association, said that if brownfield sites ran out local planners would prefer to go 'well beyond' the green belt and build in towns such as Worcester.

'We don't want to make incursions into the green belt.We want to preserve it, ' she said.

Consultation will continue throughout the summer, with a submission to deputy prime minister John Prescott planned for September.

The plans stress local authority officers' determination to rejuvenate inner city areas through a combination of new transport schemes, building higher-density housing developments (up to 70 dwellings per hectare) and 'raising the quality of urban design'. The draft proposals also express the intention of 'designing out crime' in new housing developments.

The draft does, however, leave the door open to lower density developments in the interests of providing 'quality and choice'.

The paper also suggests reusing neglected nonresidential sites and converting them into housing, and encouraging more people to live over shops.

'Urban renaissance will be the top priority . . .

The aim will be to create, across all parts of the major urban areas, sustainable communities where more people will wish to live, work and invest, ' states the draft.

Birmingham City Council is offering a salary of £70,000 to the individual who can lead its new Urban Design Department, launched last Thursday. The job, which the council says responds to the RIBA's 'city architect' idea, presents the opportunity to formulate a design vision for the city and to manage a team of 300 architects, building surveyors, engineers and maintenance staff.

Applicants have until 23 May to respond.

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