Sandwell Council chiefs defend Brandhall golf course decision

People's views on controversial plans to develop the former Brandhall Golf Course were weighed against the benefits of the scheme, a councillor has said.

Brandhall protestors and councillor Jay Anandou, outside Sandwell Council House. Copyright Jay Anandou.
Brandhall protestors and councillor Jay Anandou, outside Sandwell Council House. Copyright Jay Anandou.

Sandwell Council concluded homes and a primary school will be built on the Oldbury site despite 83 per cent of people objecting in a public consultation.

It was debated on Wednesday – despite the plans being backed earlier this year – after being called in by two councillors, Ellen Fenton and Paul Moore.

Councillor Peter Hughes, cabinet member for regeneration and growth, told councillors the consultation was a “key factor” in reaching their conclusions. He added the weight of residents views was “set against the weight given to the needs of the council and the benefits of this scheme”.

He said: “The report explains Sandwell’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAAP) was not omitted from the report received by cabinet in July this year, but was not included as it was not material to the decision being made.

“The document provides an evidence-based used when preparing the statutory local plan. It’s not used to determine planning applications, and it does not have any status as adopted planning policy.

“The preferred option for Brandhall was taken by cabinet, acting on behalf of the council as a landowner only. It was not an exercise of any statutory functions of the local Planning Authority, nor did it constituted planning consent, nor allocate the site of development in the statutory local plan.”

Although the council approved their position, with Councillor Hughes declaring their scrutiny report as ‘adequately addressing’ residents concerns, the plans will still need to be formally approved at a planning committee, and could be subject to a planning appeal.

Sandwell Council had intended to build 550 houses, a new public park, and a new school at the former Brandhall golf course. But political pressure from Brandhall Green Space Action Group (BGSAG), which wishes to keep the green space as undeveloped as possible, forced the local authority to reconsider.

At the time, councillors considered five different options. They picked option three – to build 190 new houses, a new school, and develop a 26-hectare park. They also approved the majority of the site as a zone for nature conservation.

Ian Bennett, chair of BGSAG, said: “Sandwell Council’s decision to proceed with the destruction of Brandhall green space was sadly predictable.

“Despite all the promises made and assurances given, they have proved yet again that they are more concerned with self interest than with representing the views of residents and following due process.

“It is also a clear sign of desperation that all the Labour councillors where whipped behind approving the redevelopment plans: this also shows that they recognise the decision is flawed and that they are not interested in proper and open debate.

“The fundamental facts of the situation remain though: the site is unsuitable for redevelopment and due process has not been followed.”

Clive Heywood, a protester belonging to the BGSAG said the decision was a “whitewash”. He said: “The narrative provided only promotes the development and destruction in parts of the site.

“There clearly are many more technical issues to be looked at and the granting of outline planning permission will not be a formality as any development is morally the wrong thing for a supposed caring and listening council to do.”

Mr Heywood said many protesters had voted for option three on the consultation, but only because here was no option without housing or a school.

“It was the least bad option only and was not really an endorsement of the development but rather the only response that could be given to indicate residents displeasure in the other options," he added.

Several Conservative councillors voiced their concerns at the decision.

Councillor Jay Anandou said: “This is absolute shambles, this is how far undemocratic Sandwell Council can go,. his cabinet doesn’t represent the people of Sandwell. The people’s campaign to stop the destruction of the green space will continue.”

Councillor Amrita Dunn said: “You hit new lows today going against the public consultation on Brandhall and approving a subscription charge for green waste collection. You’ve already raised council tax. You’ve already raised parking charges. You are not on the side of the people.”

All cabinet members unanimously approved the report.

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News