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City council accused of unnecessary release of green belt land

A local green belt campaign group has accused Coventry City Council of having unnecessarily allocated open space for new housing due to concerns over how the Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculated population growth.

Merle Gering, chair of campaign group Keep our Greenbelt Green, had accused the council of a "spectacular failure in the city to have anything like the population growth expected".

Mr Gering added: “People should have known it. It was obvious... The repercussions are that some of the best and most beautiful land in the county and the city has been taken away from green belt and allocated for housing.”

He called for a moratorium for up to a year on any planning decision on greenfield land.

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But David Welsh cabinet member for housing and communities, said the campaigners’ grievance should be directed against the Government rather than the council.

Cllr Walsh said: “The simple fact is that the Government makes councils across the country use the ONS 2014 figures,

“It’s what we had to use in our current local plan and what the government would make us use in their new housing need formula.”

He said new rules required Coventry to add on multipliers, including what he called “an arbitrary 35% increase to the 20 largest cities in England to fit the Conservative manifesto pledges”.

ONS figures for 2021 did though provide the city with a way to challenge this, Cllr Welsh said, if it worked with nearby authorities.

He explained: “We already have nearly 18,000 homes of the city’s housing need being met by our Warwickshire neighbours and our challenge to government will be stronger working together.

“It’s also worth saying that although the ONS over-estimated the population in Coventry, they also under-estimated the population in Warwickshire by a very similar amount, and it’s vital we continue to work together on this.”

Cllr Welsh said the city needed to find homes for “people in Coventry in extreme need for housing”.

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