PLEA: Don’t build over much loved golf course
Brandhall Golf Course, Image: LDRS
A much-loved green space in Sandwell which residents say protected their mental health during the pandemic should be kept wild and not built on, say residents.
Brandhall Green Space Action Group, made up of residents from Old Warley, Langley, and Bristnall council wards, has been campaigning to keep the land for local people to use and to stop urban development on the land.
On a tour of the green space, resident and member of Brandhall Green Space Action Group Stephen Peugh told LDRS of the “amazing benefits” the golf course has for people.
He said: “I only discovered this green space during lockdown, and I didn’t really know about it until it closed. It has really helped me keep going during those difficult times.
“This place is beautiful and I am surprised Sandwell council want to redevelop over it. If they do, then our nearest green space will be a good few miles away, meaning there will be residents here who will find it difficult to enjoy their local parks or nature reserves.”
As part of an online survey released in November 2019, Sandwell published maps showing three options on how the land could be used in the future.
They reveal as much as 8.5 hectares could be used for park land but do not show how much land will be used for housing or the number of houses that would be built.
Brandhall Golf Club, an 18-hole municipal golf course, and run by Sandwell council, closed in May last year, after the council said it was spending £275,000 a year subsidising the course.
According to the council, Brandhall Golf Course is currently classed as restricted because it is not “fully accessible to the public”, and that local people are “not able to use this green space as they would other local parks”.
On their website they state: “Now the decision has been made to close the golf course, this provides an opportunity to consider opening part of the site to local people as a fully accessible public park. By doing this we would be making green space more accessible in the community.”
Sandwell council argue the golf club had 318 members, below the expected number for an 18-hole golf course, of which nearly two-thirds lived outside the borough.
The proposed sprawling development called Brandhall Urban Village, at the former Brandhall Golf Club on Heron Road features 550 homes, a new primary school and footpaths and cycle links.
The new school would replace the crumbling buildings at Causeway Green Primary.
AECOM, an engineering firm, has been appointed by Sandwell council to carry out consultations for the development for a undisclosed fee.
Member of Brandhall Green Space Action Group Tim Parkes said: “I was here for an hour yesterday and I saw about 25 people come and explore this green space.
“There are three river tributaries that flow into this golf course, and you can see all sorts of wildlife here.”
He added: “It’s interesting that Sandwell council say not many people use this supposedly empty space, because quite often the bins are overflowing, and many of us go out litter-picking to clean up the space so everyone can use it.
“I understand that this development is part of the Black Country Plan. It looks deliberately non-user friendly and opaque. The instructions and images aren’t friendly either.
The golf course has a rich local history. Before the 1920s the site was agricultural land. A private golf course was created in 1906 from land at Brandhall Farm.
The farmstead, which was the original club house, has since been demolished.
The golf course was purchased by Oldbury District Council in 1928.
Opening of the M5 motorway in 1970 resulted in a loss of the southwest corner of the golf course.
Cllr Jay Anandou, Cons, Old Warley, who created the action group, said: “This golf course has 37 hectares of pristine green space, and is home for a bat habitat, fresh water shrimps, newts, more than 30 varieties of birds, badgers, and the very source of the River Tame.
“The local residents are against any development in that greenery which goes against every promise the council has made on promoting wildlife and tackling climate change.
He added: “Any future consultation on this topic should involve resident groups. Sandwell council argue residents do not have an alternative.
“But there are numerous examples around here where green spaces are managed by local residents by forming charity trusts and friends groups.”
The full 90 page report can be seen on Sandwell Council’s planning website under application DC/21/65742.
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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