Talks called for on future of Great Barr mansion

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Campaigners against plans to revamp an historic mansion have called for talks with heritage chiefs and the developers behind the project to thrash out their concerns.

More than 150 residents attended a public meeting to discuss the future of Grade II-listed Great Barr Hall off Chapel Lane.

There are fears plans to develop the site will affect the countryside and create traffic problems.

Developers BCG Lakes and Lapworth Architects want to convert the derelict hall, which has stood empty on the Walsall-Sandwell border since 1978, into a hotel and conference venue, along with 57 homes. Michael Lapworth, of Lapworth Architects, today insisted 'robust and extensive' consultation had already been carried out into the £20 million scheme.

But campaigners, who have formed the Beacon Action Group want more done.

Group chairman Bob Winkle said: "We want all the parties involved including the architects, English Heritage and the MPs to sit round the table and discuss the issues. I'm sure there is a solution to our concerns.

"Many of the people don't believe that this application for building in the green belt is acceptable. Development can be allowed in special circumstances, but we don't that this special circumstance exists at the moment. Our view is that the owners will reap all of the benefits and the nearby residents will have all of the harm.

"That harm will be tremendous. At the moment we enjoy the openness of the green belt, but there is also the golf and cricket clubs, the Sandwell Valley wedge, Merrions Wood and a lot horse riding in this area."

The meeting at Great Barr Memorial Hall was attended by Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz and West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson.

Miss Vaz said: "Residents I spoke with were clear that planning permission should be refused on the basis of the damage the development would cause to the green belt, the additional traffic on Chapel Lane and the potential impact on wildlife locally."

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