A PLAN to order Solihull to find space for more than 20,000 new homes has been strongly attacked by Solihull's MPs who fear it could spell the end for the borough's "green lung", the Meriden Gap.
The proposal is contained in the recommendations of a Government-commissioned study which looked into how and where an additional 12,500 to 80,000 houses could be built in the West Midlands by 2026.
Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden, said yesterday: "This is devastating news and I am fearful that that it will mean losses of whole swathes of green belt across the area and I just don't know where else house numbers of this magnitude could go.
"The announcement makes a mockery yet again of the term 'consultation'. With our local council indicating that we can only accommodate 7,600 houses, but the Government tripling that number, I question just why did it waste taxpayers' money to consult with key stakeholders."
Solihull’s MP, Lorely Burt said: “These new housing numbers are complete madness and divorced from reality.
“Development on this scale would require expansion ten times the size of Dickens Heath or a completely new settlement the size of Lichfield.
“Solihull is a highly attractive place to live and do business. Housing development on this scale would have a devastating impact on the character and quality of life in the borough, killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
“I am also concerned that focusing on huge increases in Solihull would detract from the opportunity for much needed economic development in nearby Coventryand Birmingham.”
The additional houses proposed in the report by consultants Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners would be over and above the 365,000 new homes proposed under its Regional Spatial Strategy by the West Midlands Regional Assembly, which has also registered concern about the announcement.
Councillor David Smith, assembly chairman, said: "Our response, when it is submitted in December, will take into account the views of the region as a whole. Nobody disagrees that there is a need for new housing in our region and the draft strategy submitted by the assembly already sets ambitious house building targets.
"But is is pointless and dangerous to set even higher housing targets if there is no realistic prospect that these targets can be delivered and that the full range of facilities - roads, schools, open space and so on - will be provided to support them."
Mrs Spelman said she had fought hard to protect the Meriden Gap - which gave Solihull so much of its character - "and I am not going to let it be ruined by ill-thought through Government plans.
"This is yet another example of public trust being undermined. the Government should have taken this opportunity to use the Regional Spatial Strategy housing plans to regenerate areas of Birmingham, Coventry and the B lack Country, not build more houses which, because of land values, could be far too expensive for many families to buy."