BALSALL COMMON: Residents unhappy with brick wall replacing orchard
Residents say a “garden-grabbing” scheme behind their Solihull homes will leave them staring at a 25ft high brick wall – where an orchard used to blossom.
Last year, council planners had approved the plan to clear the site off Station Road, Balsall Common and build two detached homes on the land.
Now with the properties looming into view behind their back fences, neighbours have accused the council of underestimating the impact that controversial projects of this kind has on those living nearby.
And they are concerned that the planning permission granted in February 2020 came less than 12 months before the council launched a consultation on its future policy for so-called “backland development.”
Resident Marc Daniels, aged, 54, argued the “overbearing” buildings currently being erected should never been given the go-ahead.
“I’m going to be looking at a brick wall which is 25ft high,” said the father-of-three, who has lived in the village 20 years.
“It’s going to be on top of us, it’s going to impact on several properties and obviously Solihull planning are just not bothered about it.
“The problem … as far as I’m concerned is that they don’t listen to people.”
Residents feel particularly aggrieved because they feel that the scheme given the green-light fails many of the tests set out in the draft policy recently put to consultation.
And they’ve also called into question the value of approving a housing scheme on a small parcel of land, when the council’s Draft Local Plan has earmarked the village for around 1,700 new properties.
Neighbour Mark Yates was also deeply unhappy about homes being “shoehorned” in and argued that what was being built didn’t fit with council guidelines.
“A shoebox property in Balsall Common isn’t solving the housing shortage,” he said.
“It just annoys people and causes them a lack of faith in the system … people don’t trust the council to make reasonable and fair decisions.”
In their report, which went to committee a little over a year ago, planning officers concluded that the scheme had improved upon a previous proposal for the land.
They made the case that there wasn’t “unacceptable levels of overshadowing and overlooking” and that trees due to be removed were deemed low-quality by ecologists.
The developers had argued that the four-bedroom homes would be “two storey in height, similar in size to the neighbouring properties – giving a good relationship with those existing properties.”
Despite objections from around a dozen residents and the parish council, the plans passed by a majority.
Ward councillor Tony Dicicco (Con, Meriden) – who also objected at the time – said both he and the council strongly opposed “inappropriate infill development” and that the Draft Local Plan would promote better development.
“It seeks to protect the natural landscape and biodiversity – this is very often not possible where new dwellings are crammed into inappropriate spaces,” he said.
Speaking last week, he said that he had fought against a number of schemes during his nine years representing the area and intended to continue if re-elected in May.
Solihull Council has been contacted for comment in response to residents’ recent criticisms and asked about how it approached applications when there could be a future change to local or national policy on the horizon.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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