Plans to turn old Walsall Wood Library into homes is rejected

A ‘disgraceful’ proposal to transform a disused old Walsall library into new homes has been thrown out by planners.

An artist impression of a planned apartment block on the old Walsall Wood Library site. PIC: RH Development (Midlands) Limited
An artist impression of a planned apartment block on the old Walsall Wood Library site. PIC: RH Development (Midlands) Limited

Developer RH Development is keen on converting the Walsall Wood Library building into a six-apartment block while also building four new semi-detached houses on the car park.

But the plans were opposed by officers, and members of Walsall Council’s planning committee backed their view and refused the application at a meeting on Monday.

Concerns were raised about the impact the development would have on the Grade II listed war memorial at the neighbouring St Johns Church, which is also a locally listed building.

Other concerns included the potential negative impact on highways safety and potential noise issues for residents.

But representatives for the developers told the committee they had not been asked to carry out a heritage impact assessment and had provided all other information which has been requested.

They also said the application had come to a “grinding halt” last year as dialogue with planning officers dried up.

The company has lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate over the non-determination of the car park plan and for costs, which will be heard in due course.

At the meeting, ward councillor Keith Sears said: “This development is disgraceful, with no thought for the impact on heritage asset Grade II Listed War Memorial at St John’s Church.

“The impact would have an unacceptable impact on road safety and fails to provide satisfactory standard amenities for residents. I urge the committee to refuse this application.”

He also said the development was too much for a small plot of land, would increase congestion and result in a loss of privacy for existing homes.

Walsall Wood Library was one of nine community facilities that were axed in 2017 by the then administration in the wake of financial pressures.

Paramjit Sehdeva, acting on behalf of RH Development, said: “The land in question was sold by the local authority for a potential redevelopment.

“The library was not in use and car parking wasn’t used by anybody other than local residents for additional parking.

“When we submitted the application, the assumption was made it was going to be supported for some form of development.

“During the process, requests for a tree survey was made, a TPO survey was made, a noise survey was made and a street scene was made. We responded to all of this information as and when it was requested.

“At no time was a heritage statement ever requested. We would have done a heritage impact statement. At no time did we ever refuse to submit any information.

“The application came to a grinding halt in May 2021 when we repeatedly up to September asked from officers a response. But they failed to respond to any of our emails.

“In the end, for the four houses (on the car park) we submitted an application for an appeal for non-determination with costs.”

The committee upheld planning officer recommendations to refuse both applications. The decision on the four houses will form part of their case at the planning inquiry.

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