SANDWELL: Housing development at risk of flooding
Copyright Rhi Storer.
Hundreds of new homes set to be built on a former golf course in Sandwell are at ‘significant risk’ of being flooded.
Brandhall Village consists of 550 homes, a large new public park, space for a new replacement for Causeway Green Primary School, pedestrian and cycle links, and new wildlife areas.
But the site, on Brandhall Golf Course, is a significant flood risk according to the government’s own long-term flood risk service.
A face-to-face consultation on the development will be held at Brandhall Library, Oldbury on November 16, between 12pm and 3.30pm and session between 4.30pm and 8pm.
The former golf course has also been historically used as a flood defence.
Bovis Homes was given approval to build 117 homes on the former Sandwell Council campus in Pound Road in March 2010, but in 2012 the area was classified as a flood zone by the Environment Agency.
In 2013, a planning application was granted to use part of the golf course on Heron Road to store and release flood waters.
It states: “It is proposed to create a flood storage area at the downstream extent of the golf course.
“The proposed works involve the part diversion of the brook and the creation of a raised embankment across the flood plain [sic] to create a physical barrier to flood water, which would then be stored during flood events and then controllably released.”
Sandwell council said they “recognise the concerns” of the local community with regard to flooding, and note if the consultation is approved, a flood risk assessment and a drainage strategy would need to be developed.
Brandhall Green Space Action Group, made up of residents from Old Warley, Langley Green, and Bristnall council wards, has campaigned to keep the land for local people to use and to stop urban development on the land.
Clive Heywood, a member of the action group, said: “It is absolutely crazy. They are ignoring their own policies in looking after green space because of their own bureaucratic classifications of green spaces.
“They don’t class it as a green space. As far as they are concerned, it’s restricted public access as a golf course, but it’s no longer a golf course.
“They padlock the doors into the space which is against the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, and even my local councillor admitted they should not lock the top entrance.
“It makes me angry at how little face-to-face consultation there has been. It’s crafty. The semantics over what classifies a green space is ridiculous, especially as our area has the least amount of green spaces in the borough of Sandwell.”
Cllr Jay Anandou (Cons, Old Warley), who created the action group, also raised objections.
He argued the consultation itself, delivered by AECOM, an American multinational engineering firm, was not representative of all the residents within his council ward.
He said: “This is my first full objection not only to the development but also to the flawed consultation process.
“The Black Country Plan is not even approved. The consultation for it only concluded in October this year. The wards of Bristnall, Old Warley, and Langley Green have a combined population of nearly 36,500 people and the consultation leaflet has been given to 2,243 residents which is six per cent of the population.
“Even though online and social media is used the fact that these areas have a number of elderly residents and getting feedback from a meagre 6 per cent of the population to destroy 37 hectares of green space is ridiculous.”
In a letter submitted on November 3 to Tony McGovern, director of regeneration and growth at Sandwell council, Cllr Anandou also argued the council are “exploiting a loophole” to allow the development without proper scrutiny.
It stated: “All of the proposed development options are basically variations on housing development.
“No other alternatives are offered by Sandwell council, which would seem to indicate that the cabinet of Sandwell council had already unilaterally decided the site should be selected for housing.
“The cabinet of Sandwell council are seeking to exploit a loophole created by the site’s [sic] former designation as ‘Restricted Green Space’ to circumvent all checks and balances leading to the unfair redesignation of this pristine green space site as selected for housing.”
In response to these allegations, Sandwell council claims the former golf course is included in its strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA) and the green space has “already been declared surplus by the council” and with “no significant viability issues”.
The council said a suitable site is assessed against relevant planning constraints and their ability to be mitigated against.
The council also state the site is proposed for housing in the draft Black Country Plan – subject to government guidance – before it can be adopted as planning policy.
But the councillor warned the development was a ‘temporary policy fix’ in the current government’s national house-building strategy.
He said: “We plead with you to pause from your headlong rush towards developing every available parcel of land in Sandwell just for one moment and consider how the overwhelming evidence we present proves the value of Brandhall Green Space as a bastion against climate change, against pollution and against local flooding.
“In deciding on the fate of Brandhall Green Space your choice is simple. Preserve a priceless asset for current and future generations, or destroy something irreplaceable for a temporary policy fix.
“If you continue with your plans, one day, every square centimetre of the ward in which we live will be covered in concrete and brick. What happens then?”
Cllr Iqbal Padda (Labs, Greets Green and Lyng Ward), and cabinet member for regeneration and growth, said: “We are at the early stages of developing the masterplan and the purpose of this consultation is to share our ambitions, draft vision and masterplan options.
“No decisions have been taken. We are offering the local community an opportunity to influence key aspects of the masterplan, including how the new Brandhall Village could look and the kinds of open space and any community facilities provided within it.
“We understand that this is a very important site for the local community and thank everyone who has taken part in the consultation so far. Our key priority is to make sure the masterplan responds positively to concerns, priorities and aspirations for the site.”
The consultation will run from November 1 to November 28.
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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