Special meeting to scrutinise plans to build on golf course pushed back due to by-election

A meeting to look into whether Sandwell used ‘incomplete information’ to make a decision to build on a former golf course has been delayed due to a by-election.

Brandhall protestors and councillor Jay Anandou, outside Sandwell council house. Photo: Jay Anandou.
Brandhall protestors and councillor Jay Anandou, outside Sandwell council house. Photo: Jay Anandou.

The by-election in Wednesbury South has been called to replace Kirat Singh, who was elected to the ward in May 2021.

Mr Singh was suspended by Labour only two months into his role. The reasons for his suspension have not been made public, but it's understood one of the reasons relates to his recent employment in a politically restrictive role.

After being suspended Mr Singh attended only one out of 10 Sandwell Council meetings and he resigned as councillor in August.

The Brandhall meeting, first reported to be held in September by deputy leader of Sandwell Council Bob Piper, has been pushed back to November.

It comes after a scrutiny meeting, called by Sandwell Labour’s own councillor Ellen Fenton, revealed “incomplete information” may have been used to reach a decision to build on the former golf course.

Sandwell Council had intended to build 550 houses, a new public park, and a new school at the former Brandall golf course, in Oldbury – dubbed the Brandhall Village.

But campaigners at Brandhall Green Space Action Group (BGSAG), and a public consultation which showed 83 per cent of individuals objected to the plans, had forced the local authority to reconsider.

Councillors considered five different options at a cabinet meeting in July. After a lengthy debate, members voted on option three – to build 190 new houses, a school to replace the ageing Causeway Green primary school, and develop a 26-hectare park.

Brandhall Golf Course

They also approved the majority of the site as a zone for nature conservation.

Meanwhile, leaked documents authored by Sandwell Council also factored in a judicial review as a likely risk to the council if the development went ahead, including “reputational impact for the council”.

Ian Bennett, chair of BGSAG said: “Following the admission by councillor Hughes that cabinet approved plans for Brandhall on the basis of flawed information, all has gone quiet.

“Despite assurances from councillor Hughes and councillor Carmichael that they actively want to work with us, we haven’t received any updates on when the plans for Brandhall will be presented back to Cabinet.

“We are keen to know how the council have been using this extended time to correct the mistakes of the past. Local residents and the action group will only accept the standard strategic housing assessments.

“We hope that Sandwell will show true integrity and deal with Brandhall in an equitable and fair manner.”

Mr Bennett said a petition has been circulated to residents to Old Warley, Langley, and Bristnall council wards to allow Brandhall to be debated at the next full Sandwell Council meeting. He claimed demand for posters “outstripped” supply.

He added the group have sent off Freedom of Information requests to understand how AECOM, the planning developer, was awarded the contract work.

A spokesperson for Sandwell Council said: “The meeting at which Sandwell Council’s cabinet will respond to a Scrutiny ‘call-in’ on the decision on the future of the former Brandhall golf course site will now take place on November 16.

“Originally the item was scheduled for cabinet to consider on September 28. However, notice of a council ward by-election in Sandwell on October 27 has now been given.

“The council must hold the by-election within a defined statutory timeframe and must also comply with the legal limitations that apply during the pre-election period, which means care must be taken regarding high-profile activities during this sensitive time. For this reason, cabinet’s consideration of this matter has been postponed until after the by-election.

“No officer work progressing any development plans for Brandhall can take place before the Scrutiny ‘call-in’ has been concluded in November.”

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