Labour MP opposes new homes in her first week on the job despite party’s housing plans

Sarah Coombes, Labour MP for West Bromwich, tuned into a public inquiry from Westminster over a housing development
Sarah Coombes, Labour MP for West Bromwich, tuned into a public inquiry from Westminster over a housing development

A new Labour MP has opposed plans to build on the green belt in her first week despite it being a central part of the government’s housing policy.

Sarah Coombes, the newly elected MP for West Bromwich, tuned into a public inquiry from Westminster “to speak on behalf of residents” who are objecting to development at Peak House Farm in Great Barr, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The inquiry was launched after developers Wain Estates appealed against Sandwell council’s decision to refuse permission for its plans to build 150 homes and a countryside park on the site, which is designated green belt land.

It is likely to lead to accusations of hypocrisy from Labour, given the party has made building on the green belt a central part of its plans to deliver 1.5 million homes over the course of the next Parliament.

On Tuesday evening, Ms Coombes wrote on social media: “I took a brief break from the proceedings in Parliament today to speak on behalf of residents in Great Barr at the planning inquiry in relation to the proposed development at Peak House Farm.”

The post was accompanied by two photos: one appearing to show Ms Coombes addressing the inquiry, and the other depicting a group of residents holding up signs declaring “save our green belt”, “hands off the green belt”, “protect our local wildlife from development” and “we need to keep our prime quality farmland”.

The public inquiry into the Peak House Farm proposals began on Tuesday, and was expected to last for six days.

Sandwell council rejected the plans in January, warning the development would be “inappropriate” to the location and harmful to local wildlife. Developers had argued it would help address a “chronic” shortage of affordable homes in the area.

In order to address Britain’s housing crisis, Labour has said it will build on what Sir Keir Starmer has called the “ugly” parts of the green belt, such as disused car parks or wasteland, dubbed the “grey belt”.

During the election campaign, the party said nature spots would be ruled out of building plans, while work would be done to improve existing green spaces and make them accessible to the public.

In her first major speech as Chancellor, Rachel Reeves confirmed Labour would reinstate compulsory housing targets as part of an overhaul of Britain’s planning rules.

Labour’s manifesto outlined a slew of reforms to speed up planning and boost house building.

It said the party would ensure councils have up-to-date local plans on where housing and industrial development was needed and would fund the employment of hundreds more planning officers.

It also said that while a Labour government would prioritise brownfield sites for the construction of homes and industries, this will “not be enough to meet our housing need”.

Ms Coombes was sworn into the House of Commons on Wednesday, having won her seat in last week’s general election.

She tweeted: It was an incredible honour to have been officially sworn in as our MP for West Bromwich.

“It is a privilege to represent our area in Parliament.

“I will work tirelessly for our community and the change we need to see.”