Westminster Column

2nd June 2016

It has been a busy week in Sutton Coldfield as preparations for our Great Europe Debate gather pace and we celebrate the Elevation of Royal Sutton Coldfield’s first Mayor for more than 42 years.

We have held a public meeting with our 24 newly elected Town Councillors and I had the great pleasure of welcoming Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra to Sutton Coldfield - in the presence of our Royal Town Mayor on her first Official Engagement - when she officially opened our new Acute Medical unit at Good Hope Hospital.

But potentially the most significant news for all of us in Sutton is that the Government has announced that they are ordering Birmingham City Council to stop work on the Birmingham Development Plan 2031 pending an examination of the outrageous, and completely unacceptable to Sutton Coldfield, plan by Labour Birmingham City Council to propose building 6000 homes on Sutton's green Belt

As readers of the Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer will be aware along with Sutton’s Conservative Councillors and supported strongly by our many magnificent community groups and campaigners, I have vigorously opposed these obnoxious proposals and spoken out against them in the House of Commons - most recently in last week’s debate on the Queen’s Speech.

In principle we are absolutely committed to building more homes. Our younger generation’s futures depend on doing just that. But they must be built in the right place. I have suggested alternatives including the massive potential to build over 40 000 homes at the site of a Black Country Garden City and further Government support for work on decontaminating brown field land in and around Birmingham.

And while I am on the subject let me lay to rest once and for all the absurd suggestion from Labour that this all the fault of the Tories for not stopping the Council from putting forward these plans!

The Government does not say that Councils and planners should NEVER build on the green belt in all cases. That would be excessively rigid and wrong. We believe it is broadly right to enable Councils to decide what is best for their local areas and local needs. But the Government has repeatedly made clear there should be a "presumption against building on the green belt" unless there are overwhelming arguments for doing so. In this case, quite simply, there are not. Where a very special case exists- such as the building of our Hospice on the edge of our green belt - then of course as a community we embrace it and make a specific exception.