The documents to build a new urban village over Brandhall Golf Course were leaked to a blog, and show a presentation that was delivered to Sandwell Council on June 28. They include ecological and building cost information to deliver Brandhall urban village, set for a cabinet debate on July 20.
In those documents, Sandwell Council claims the sale of Brandhall Golf Course – subject to cabinet approval – will be £3 million. A community infrastructure levy and a capital grant from the Department of Education, will boost the sale to a total of £10 million.
The consultation, previously hidden from the public, has revealed over 83 per cent of people said they did not agree to homes being built on the site. The council admitted the majority of commenters wished to “preserve” the site as it is.
Kerrie Carmichael, the leader of Sandwell Council, previously said she had not been part of “any secret meeting” about the future of Brandhall Golf Course, and neither had any Sandwell Labour councillor. But the leaked documents raise questions over scrutiny and transparency with the council over the future of the golf course.
In a further admission of scrutiny, the council has also factored in a judicial review as a likely risk to the council, including “reputational impact for the council”.
Brandhall urban village is part of Sandwell Council’s objective to build more affordable housing, a new school, and regeneration in the borough. It follows the regional Black Country Plan, signed up by all four Black Country councils – including Sandwell – to deliver investment and growth in the region.
Brandhall Golf Course was once run by Sandwell Council. It closed in May 2020 after the council said it was spending £275,000 a year subsidising the course. The space has since been left to grow wild.
But Brandhall Green Space Action Group, made up of residents from Old Warley, Langley, and Bristnall council wards, continues to campaign to keep the land for local people. Its aim is to keep the land as a communal green space and to stop urban development on the land.
Residents close to the golf course say the green space helped them to manage their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, and campaigners hope to keep the green space accessible to all.
It comes as Sandwell Council recently passed a report updating its green space strategy for the borough. The ‘Green Spaces Strategy Implementation and Business Plan 2022-25’ is a 113-page document outlining the council’s commitment to improve accessibility and use of green spaces to “reduce health inequalities, loneliness, dementia, disability, and improve physical, mental health, and wellbeing”.
Brandhall is only mentioned once, in reference to allotment usage. The former golf course was not mentioned once in the document as either green space or as a nature reserve.
Ian Bennett, chair of the Brandhall Green Space Action Group, said: “We read, with much interest, the information that was leaked this week and we have contacted councillor Kerrie Carmichael to ask her to confirm the veracity of the content.
“On first view, the content seems genuine and contains significant amounts of information that we have been asking the council to release for months, for example, the results of the 2021 consultation.
“It is also interesting to note that the ecological appraisal for the site would appear to conflict with previous site assessments and our own evidence gathered on-site, which is recorded on our Brandhall Green Space Catalogue Facebook page.”
Mr Bennett challenged many points raised in the leaked documents. He claimed badgers are located on the site, despite Sandwell Council’s insistence that there are none. The report also failed to disclose the presence of other large mammals, such as foxes and deers, which have been captured on video footage.
Mr Bennett also asserts at least nine species of birds, including Redwing and Mistle Thrushes have been documented at the former golf course – the majority of which are listed on the RSPB’s red list of endangered avian species.
He added: “We have issued an open invitation to the cabinet and all Sandwell Councillors to meet with us on the green space to allow us the opportunity of setting the records straight in terms of the true environmental impact that any development of the site would have.
“We continue to scrutinise the content of the information leaked this week and believe there are multiple ‘deficiencies’ in the approach that need to be explored further, for example the original deed of dedication which protected Brandhall Green Space from redevelopment by Sandwell Council for 99 years.
“We would like to assure the local residents, who are wholeheartedly against redevelopment of the site, that this is not a done deal. Brandhall Green Space Action Group will continue to fight to protect the site and ensure that Sandwell Council delivers on its commitment to be ‘a listening council’ and respect the wishes of the local residents.”
A Sandwell Council spokesman said: “We do not comment on the contents of leaked documents. As is our usual process, all relevant documents will be published no later than July 12, seven working days prior to the cabinet meeting of 20 July.”