Sandwell Council has earmarked green space for a plan to create Brandhall Village which consists of 550 homes, a large new public park, space for a new replacement for Causeway Green primary school, pedestrian and cycle links, and new wildlife areas.
A total of 497 people responded to the public consultation (436 via the online response forms, 51 via hard copy forms, and a further 10 free-form responses i.e. bespoke letters or emails).
In a letter issued in January, Tony McGovern, the authority's director of regeneration and growth, said: “As a result of the number and complexity of the consultation responses, it is already apparent that the council will need to commission some additional technical studies – especially in relation to the wide range of ecology issues that have been raised.
“Once this additional technical work has been completed, council officers will produce an ‘Options Report’ for the cabinet to determine the future of the site.
“There will be additional options included in the report over and above the options that were initially consulted upon and this will also include new options such as a ‘Do Nothing’ option.
“Cabinet will need to weigh all the different factors involved such as housing need, the need for a new primary school, ecology, flood risk and traffic, new public park and air pollution issues to arrive at a formal decision.”
But Brandhall Green Space Action Group (BGSAG), made up of residents from Old Warley, Langley, and Bristnall wards, have been campaigning to keep the land for people to use, and to stop urban development.
They say they are “frustrated” the Labour-led local authority has chosen not to make the results of the Brandhall consultation public, which took place in November last year.
They believe the council is determined to press ahead with urbanising the green space “despite the obvious and clear opposition”.
In a letter, Councillor Jay Anandou, speaking on behalf of BGSAG, said: “Many residents gave their time to contribute their views to the consultation, engage with officials and look through your plans thoroughly.
“It is therefore frustrating that the council has chosen not to make the results of the consultation public, for all to see, and instead seems determined to press ahead with plans for development despite the obvious and clear opposition.
“Indeed, we feel that it is unacceptable that despite two consultations on the future of the Brandhall green space, you have chosen not to make public the views of residents and instead have decided to unilaterally; ‘…produce an Options Report for the cabinet to determine the future of the site’.”
“The response letter published is also disappointing since it does not recognise the dramatic effect Covid has had on communities and people’s mental states.
“The importance and value of green space is now widely recognised for its benefit for physical and mental health. This consideration has been completely ignored in the letter consultees received.
“Covid may eventually go away but people’s resolve to enjoy green space [sic] will continue as people make more healthy lifestyle choices.”
Previous council leader Rajbir Singh described Sandwell as a “listening council”, in reference to a debate on the future of the former golf course, adding: “We are open for consultation, and I can assure you that after the consultation, whatever the message is from the residents, that will be implemented.”
Meanwhile, five protests have taken place by Brandhall Green Space Action Group outside the council chambers over the last seven months to save the green space, which has historically been used as a flood defence.
The council states the site is proposed for housing in the draft Black Country Plan – subject to government guidance – before it can be adopted as planning policy.
But Lichfields, a leading planning and development consultancy, say there is a “significant shortfall” in housing land for the period up to 2039 arising from the Black Country, with nearly 29,000 dwellings needing to be delivered elsewhere.
The council added: “Our vision for Brandhall Village incorporates not only new homes, but a large publicly accessible park, and space for a new primary school.
“This consultation offers the local community an opportunity to influence key aspects of the masterplan including how the new Village will look, and the kinds of open space and any community facilities provided within it.”