5th September 2021
Dear Councillor Bird,
Re: Insufficient consultation on Black Country Plan
I have been contacted by many people across the borough in regard to their concerns about the Black Country Plan and the lack of opportunity that they have had in being able to access and to respond to the proposals within the plan. I have also met with many people and groups in the past week and all of them have complained about the difficulty that they have had in accessing, responding and getting information about the plan.
I am aware that the actual document runs into hundreds of pages and the impact on the greenbelt, if the proposals are accepted, will be across the whole of the borough. As a St Matthew’s Councillor, I am very concerned at the proposals that are within the plan in relation to Calderfields, adjacent to the Arboretum. I have also attended a meeting recently in Birchills Leamore Ward where residents were very cross at the fact that the proposals will designate virtually all the green space around Reedswood as development land including the Park but no one had made them aware of this. In addition to this I have been contacted by residents from other parts of the borough who are similarly annoyed at the manner of the consultation and the negative impact on our Greenbelt land, ecology and on the habitats that exist within these areas.
The communication of this plan and the communication on how to add to the consultation has been extremely poor and over-complicated meaning that many are unaware of it and many are unable to respond. I am afraid if the consultation is not extended that our residents throughout the borough will be disenfranchised and this consultation will be seen as no more than a sham. It is vital that public confidence is maintained during such consultations and it is my view that the public in Walsall has no or very little confidence that this consultation has been open, transparent or sufficient.
As a member of the planning committee, I will reserve my judgement on specific applications to when they come in front of the committee. However, I am nevertheless very concerned that the impact on the greenbelt will be irreversible, damaging to the wellbeing of our communities, disastrous to the local ecology and will wipe out many endangered species. The impact of the plan, if accepted, has the potential to change our borough permanently in a negative way. Once our Greenbelt is lost we will not be able to bring it back.
I, therefore, ask you and your administration to urgently intervene and extend the consultation so that we can empower our residents to effectively and reasonably have their say. We cannot be in a position where our residents feel, as many do, that this consultation is either pre-judged by those who are in charge or that they have not had the opportunity to have their say. We need to listen to those that have elected us and put trust in us to do the right thing. We must allow our residents to be given the time to have their say.
In addition to this, I do feel that it would be appropriate, respectful and responsible to send out a letter to every household so that they can be directed to the plan and be empowered to respond. The Council is very quick to send out Council Tax bills every year but seems to be reluctant to send out a notification of the Black Country Plan which will have a lasting and huge impact on our borough and our residents.
I appeal to you therefore to extend the deadline for the consultation and send out a notification of the plan and how to contribute to the consultation to every household in the borough. Anything less would be unbefitting to an open, transparent and fair consultation.
Councillor Aftab Nawaz
Leader – Walsall Labour Group