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Vacant office plans for housing need

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Vacant or underused office sites in town centres could help boost the number of homes built in Dudley borough, the leader of Dudley Council said today.

Dudley Council is developing its own plan to identify housing and employment land across the borough.

It follows a decision to break-away from the Black Country Plan after neighbouring authorities failed to agree on a way forward.

The council will use evidence already gathered as well as extensive feedback from the public as part of its plan.

Council bosses again reiterated that the authority would identify brownfield, or previously developed land first, to protect greenbelt as much as possible.

The leader of the council also said under-used or vacant office accommodation could hold the key to providing suitable land.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said:

This is a Dudley borough plan and will be driven by the people of Dudley borough. We are looking to use brownfield land first and one way we can do that is to look at what vacant or underused office space there is around the borough. As businesses look to new ways of working after the pandemic there will be many who are opting for staff to work from home more. Those sites could be better used for housing or other purposes which would also benefit our town centres. We will be looking at that option in greater detail and identifying land for housing and employment that is more acceptable to the people of this borough.

A report outlining the proposals for a ‘Dudley plan’ was discussed and approved by the council’s cabinet on Monday.

It is estimated it could cost up to £500,000 over the three years preparing the plan. However, a significant amount of this would be absorbed by existing budgets and by merging other local plan documents into one programme which will reduce costs and resources.

Councillor Harley added:

We are ahead of the game in terms of planning and much of the evidence we have already gathered and the investments made to this point will feed directly into the plan. We would have had to spend a significant proportion of that estimated £500,000 figure by staying in the Black Country Plan. If we can combine proposed action plans for the borough into this programme as well, that makes good financial sense and will save us money. Simply put, by going with a Dudley plan we can use people’s money much more wisely which will be welcome news for everyone and gives them a cost-effective plan that they actually influence.

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