Housing plan on green belt will bring end to years of 'hell' for Walsall residents

A 150-home development on antisocial behaviour-plagued Bloxwich land is set to bring an end to years of “hell” for residents.

The land. Photo: Google
The land. Photo: Google

Despite being designated as green belt land, the site off Harden Road had been left to deteriorate and become besieged by off road bikers, burnt out cars and fly-tipping.

Developers Hill & Hall Group Limited said the scheme would address these issues as well as create much needed housing for the borough on the site.

At Thursday’s meeting, planning officers recommended refusal for a number of reasons including harm to the green belt and loss of public space.

But members said tackling crime and anti-social behaviour represented strong special circumstances to redevelop the land and approved the outline application.

Resident Yasser Kayum told the committee: “I would tell people to come and live here to understand the anti-social behaviour.

“There have been three arsons in four days, Monday, Wednesday and at 4.30am (on Thursday) two cars were burned down.

“This is really an issue here. It is said this is a green belt but it isn’t. It is barren land and nothing can be grown there.

“You have to be here to understand the hell living here next to this.”

The council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for regeneration Adrian Andrew said there were other public parks and green spaces such as The Lea and Swannies Field – regularly maintained by the Friends’ group – nearby.

He said: “This would be a major investment into Blakenall and would quite frankly would resolve a lot of problems with anti-social behaviour.

“The open space is not as green and pleasant as suggested. It has essentially turned into scrub land of no real value and significance.

“This investment would be a real bonus for the area. We were looking, some time ago, to put a school on this site but clearly and sadly that fell through.

“There used to be a kids’ park on there but not any more. There used to be a running track on there. Not any more.

“The key issue is keeping the area safe. There is still open space such as Swannies Field, The Lea, Goscote Valley. Don’t get the view this looks Swannies Field. It looks more like a battlefield.”

Committee member Mark Statham added: “I grew up 200 yards from there and it has always been like post industrial-land for 40 years.

“There are burnt out cars, it is an off-roaders paradise and it is a site of major anti-social behaviour.”

Chairman Mike Bird said: “Green belt is an amenity and certainly should be for the community which lives there. This seems to me to be a liability rather than an amenity.

“We have an opportunity to assist local residents. Would you want cars burnt out next to your house on a regular basis? I think not. Would the police? I think not. Would the fire service want it? I think not.”

The outline scheme was approved and a full application is expected in due course. It will also be sent to the Secretary of State for consideration due to the land being designated as green belt.

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