DUDLEY Council chiefs have rubbished publicity leaflets printed by the Labour Party claiming Stourbridge green belt sites are "under threat".

The pamphlets, delivered to homes in the Norton ward on behalf of Labour candidate Monika Narad, say green belt land from Racecourse Lane to County Lane is at risk from possible future development as is Stourbridge Golf Club and "the strip of green belt opposite Clent View Road and the Three Fields".

Stourbridge News:

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the authority, has branded the leaflets "absolute rubbish" and "misleading" and he said the candidate "ought to have the good grace to withdraw the comments".

Stourbridge News:

Recently selected Ms Narad (pictured above), a community organiser for a citizen engagement group who is set to do battle with stalwart Tory councillor Colin Elcock, is quoted as saying: "Development on green belt land around Norton would diminish quality of life in our community and restrict people's access to good clean air and green space. It will reduce places to walk and ruin the natural beauty of the area and its splendid views. We should consider all other alternatives before even thinking about building on this area."

Stourbridge News:

But cllr Harley (pictured below) hit back, saying: "This type of political leaflet drags politics straight from the gutter to the sewers.

Stourbridge News: Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said “tough decisions” need to be made on where to build new homes across the Black Country.

"We have no intention of building on green belt at all. In fact measures taken by my administration have sought to protect the green belt whereas under the last administration Labour did all they could to put that precious green belt at risk. First they proposed an industrial estate near junction 3 of the M5 and dropped the idea once ourselves and other parties objected.

"Then just a month before losing control last year they agreed to let Birmingham developers conduct a green belt review which named sites near to Stourbridge."

Permission for the strategic growth study by GL Hearn, he said, happened "under Labour's watch" and he added: "The only party that's been prepared to sell out on the green belt is the Labour Party.

"It's a pity they're trying to make the green belt a campaign issue."

Norton Conservative councillor Colin Elcock (pictured below) added: "It has been suggested green belt land is required to meet future housing needs as there are not enough sites within the urban area to accommodate this need.

Stourbridge News:

"I am of the opinion, as are many of my fellow Conservatives, that brownfield sites across the Black Country have not yet been fully utilised and so there are no exceptional circumstances which would justify the release of green belt land at this time.

"I remain committed to this view and the efforts to demonstrate that local green belt land is of immense historical and cultural significance, as well as demonstrating the amenity value it provides to local residents."

He branded Labour's publicity leaflets "mischievous" and added: "I think they've set out to upset the people of Norton and what better way than saying your green belt's under threat?"

Dudley Council's cabinet is expected to discuss whether to undertake a review of the area's green belt land, as part of the development of the Black Country Core Strategy, at a meeting at Dudley Council House on Wednesday (March 21).

A report to cabinet stresses the green belt review would "not in itself determine whether land in the green belt should be allocated for development".

Stourbridge News:

However - a Save Stourbridge Green Belt campaign has been launched online and on Facebook and is calling on people opposed to development of the green belt to make their views known by attending the meeting or writing to their local councillors.

Geoff Dixon, agent for Ms Narad, told the News the website had been set up amid fears the green belt could be at risk after cllr Harley was reported in December to have said the green belt review would identify land which is "most valuable to the community".

Mr Dixon said: "His quote implies green belt sites that are not of use to the community will be developed. If cllr Harley is now saying there's no way the green belt will be developed we would welcome that."

But he conceded the green belt sites listed as at risk on the Norton campaign leaflet had not been identified on any official documents, adding: "We don't know what sites are going to be in the Dudley area, that review hasn't yet been published.

"The sites that we're aware of that have been identified by the GL Hearn review are in the Cradley area."

Go to www.stourbridgegreenbelt.co.uk to find out more.