Aldi gets go-ahead to take over site of rat-infested old shopping centre

A rat-infested eyesore old shopping centre which has become a magnet for trouble looks set to finally be removed from Brownhills High Street.

Artist impression of proposed new Aldi store on Ravens Court site, High Street, Brownhills. PIC: Stoas Architects
Artist impression of proposed new Aldi store on Ravens Court site, High Street, Brownhills. PIC: Stoas Architects

Supermarket giant Aldi was given the green light to take over the former Ravens Court site and build a brand new store, creating around 40 new jobs in the process.

It will mean the company relocating from its existing Brownhills store further up the street.

The decision by Walsall Council’s planning committee gives renewed hope the nightmare of the centre, which has say empty for more than a decade, will finally end.

Fed up residents, businesses and local politicians have put up with anti-social behaviour at the site including arson and fly-tipping with the structures now in a dangerous condition.

Committee members were told at Thursday’s meeting that a youth had even lost sight in one eye after getting injured on Ravens Court.

There have been false dawns before with a proposal for Tesco to take over failing to materialise. In 2019, a new plan for a gym and retail units also didn’t get off the ground.

Highways officers raised an objection to Aldi’s new plan based on concerns about access to the new store being on the High Street.

But officers recommended approving the scheme subject to conditions, including addressing the highways concerns.

Ward councillor Ken Ferguson said: “It’s infested with pigeons, rats and a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

“Kids running across the roofs is a regular occurrence. Internally it has open lift shafts, incidents of arson and fly-tipping are also rife.

“A few years ago, the parapets started to crumble and drop onto the pedestrian area underneath and had to be made safe.

“I’m aware of one youth losing the sight of one eye due to playing with fluorescent light tubes from inside the building and it’s only a matter of time before some other serious accidents occur. Police are often called to attend incidents of ASB there.”

He added the bigger picture of regenerating Brownhills High Street would bring wider positive benefits over the ‘small advisory negative’ of the highways concerns.

Robin Williams, Aldi’s Property Director for the Midlands, added: “At Ravens Court, we propose a high quality redevelopment representing a deliverable solution to a failed redundant shopping precinct that has become a major eyesore and which currently undermines the economic health of Brownhills centre.

“Aldi actively seeks sites and tries to act constructively with councils to deliver new stores that comply with policies.

“In this case, we consider we have acquired such a site although we note the concerns of highways officers. We will continue to negotiate a satisfactory solution for the technical issue.”

Committee member Anthony Harris said: “Here we have jobs, service and a vast improvement in the quality of that town centre. It’s been a blight on the community now for over 10 years.

“It’s a disgrace. We ought to be ashamed to have allowed it to go on this long and not encouraging a developer before.”

Following the meeting, David Morgan, of Brownhills Labour Team welcomed the end of the issue following years of campaigns.

He said: “I am delighted that we finally have an end to the Ravens Court saga and I am sure many Brownhills residents will be too.

“I would like to thank Aldi for their investment in Brownhills and the new jobs that this new store will create locally.

“This planning decision brings to a conclusion the long campaign regarding this site by former Cllr Steve Wade, myself and the Brownhills Labour Team.

“We have had too many false dawns in the past on this site and I look forward to work commencing on the site very soon and wish the new store every success.”

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