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Golf course should be ‘community forest’ instead of 800 homes, say councillors

By Carl Jackson | Birmingham | News | Published:

Plans for 800 homes and a school on a former golf course should be dropped and a ‘community forest’ built on the land instead, it has been argued.

The North Worcestershire Golf Club

Councillor Olly Armstrong said the old North Worcestershire Golf Course site in his Northfield ward was the ‘perfect test case’ for Birmingham to show it is serious about protecting its green spaces.

The 80-acre plot at Hanging Lane has been at the centre of a two-year planning saga.

The Government recently ruled that Bloor Homes’ housing proposal should be ‘approved without delay’, overruling the council’s decision to refuse permission.

But Councillor Armstrong argued the political landscape had now changed after Birmingham City Council declared a ‘climate emergency’ in June following a cross-party motion.

He said: “The declaration of a climate emergency is about the best use of our green spaces.

“Now we have declared a climate emergency I think a big company like Bloor Homes should donate it to a trust as a community forest. Why shouldn’t it be for the people?

“If we are saying now we should be protecting our green spaces then this site is the perfect test case for that.”

The council rejected an original application, which was for up to 950 homes, in August 2017.

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The authority’s planning committee said there was an unsuitable balance between buildings and green spaces but their primary reason was that the site had not been allocated for housing in the wider Birmingham Development Plan.

Bloor appealed the decision and scaled down the scheme to 800 homes, reducing the housing density, increasing the proportion of green space whilst widening a ‘green corridor’ in the plans and setting properties back from Frankley Beeches Road and Tessall Lane.

The developer also improved pedestrian connectivity in its masterplan.

A public inquiry was held in October with planning inspector Paul Singleton subsequently allowing Bloor’s appeal.

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He concluded the developers had consulted properly, stating ‘no interested parties have been denied the opportunity to have their say’ and ruled that the plan ‘comprises sustainable development’.

Mr Singleton added that the proposal ‘does not conflict with the development plan’ and rejected the council’s argument that granting permission would ‘undermine public confidence in the development plan process’.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government ratified the outcome last month.

Councillor Armstrong has conducted two local meetings attended by dozens of residents since the decision.

He criticised the inspector’s report saying it did not reflect the fact that he and the residents gave up their time to speak at the inquiry.

He added: “There have been no local voices in the decision-making process.

“What Bloor has done is speak at us. It’s almost as if they feel by telling us what’s happening we are a part of the process. But that has not been the case.”

The council has commented but only to confirm the background to the planning saga and the Secretary of State’s final decision.

A spokesman said: “The Secretary of State’s decision has been determined on the basis of the amended proposal for 800 dwellings, including 280 affordable homes to which significant weight had been attached; a new primary school; multi-use community hub; new access points and associated infrastructure.”

The council was also ordered to pay costs but was unable to state how much that would be at this stage.

A statement from Bloor Homes said: “Bloor Homes is pleased with the Secretary of State’s decision and we look forward to working with the local community, key stakeholders and Birmingham City Council through the detailed planning process.”

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
@CarlJackson_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham City Council.

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