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SANDWELL: MP wades in on Brandhall Golf Course debate

SANDWELL: MP wades in on Brandhall Golf Course debate

Official photo of John Spellar MP, Warley. Copyright: Parliament.

A MP has waded in on the continued row over a housing development plan on a former golf course.

John Spellar MP, Warley, has written to Sandwell council to voice his concerns over the proposed Brandhall Village.

The development will consist 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 neighbours close to the former golf course do not want it to be redeveloped. They want it to be used as a green space for local people and have argued their area has the least amount of green spaces in the borough.

The public consultation into the plans closed on November 28.

In a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) addressed to Kim Bromley-Derry, interim chief executive at Sandwell council, Mr Spellar said there needs to be a “fundamental rethink” into the proposed plans.

It stated: “I fully recognise the need for housing in the Black Country, but would point that certainly in my constituency there are still considerable areas of brownfield land, not least in the Grove Lane area between Sandwell and Birmingham city council.

“In addition there are empty factory sites and a considerable nuisance is being caused to residents by the failure of the owners to redevelop.

“The real question is whether Brandhall Golf Course is an appropriate site for both housing and a new school. I think there are a number of difficulties which need to be taken into consideration.”

Mr Spellar noted that in all his time as a Member of Parliament there have been ongoing flood issues related to Brook Road – a short distance from the golf course.

The former golf course itself is a significant flood risk according to the government’s own long-term flood risk service.

Despite the flood risks, 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.

Cllr David Fisher, (Cons, Charlemont with Grove Vale), and leader of the opposition, said he welcomed the letter.

He said: “I welcome the news I’ve read to this morning from John Spellar MP raising concerns about the Brandhall development.

“I attended the last of the consultation on November 28 outside Brandhall, and the turnout was well attended.

“We’re calling for Sandwell Labour to adopt a brownfield first policy, which will allow us to build the homes we need whilst protecting our precious green spaces.

“Sandwell has countless brownfield sites left over from our industrial heritage. We must build on them to help redevelop the sites.”

The letter comes after sustained political and media pressure by Brandhall Green Space Action Group, made up of residents from Old Warley, Langley Green, and Bristnall council wards, who have campaigned to keep the land for local people to use and to stop urban development.

Two protests, one outside Sandwell council house on October 12, and one at its face-to-face consultation at Brandhall library on November 28, have increased scrutiny on Sandwell council.

Other objectors include Historic England, and Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, who say endangered birds nest at the site.

Cllr Jay Anandou (Cons, Old Warley), said: “I welcome [John Spellar MP’s] response and for listening to the concens of Brandhall Green Space Action Group.

“When presented with the facts, he too has come to the same conclusion that this precious green space is totally unsuitable for development.

“Put simply, Brandhall green space is unique, precious, and invaluable, and it is high time for the council to listen tothe electorate and stop the development on this site.”

Shaun Bailey MP, West Bromwich West, said: “Once again this is an example of Sandwell council having no regard for local communities.

“We are severely lacking in green space in Sandwell and whilst, of course, we are in desperate need of housing, the vast amount of brownfield sites provide more than an ample opportunity for redevelopment.”

In previous reports, 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.

Tony McGovern, Sandwell council’s director of regeneration and growth, said: “We want to thank everyone who has taken the time to contribute to the Brandhall Village consultation which has been running throughout November.

“The public consultation has given people living and working in the Brandhall area an opportunity to give their views and we are listening closely to what people have said. No decisions have been taken at this stage.

“Sandwell’s local housing need is for approximately 1,400 new homes per annum. In the past three years, about 50% of that need has been delivered, so there is a housing deficit for our local population.

“Sandwell has a ‘brownfield first’ policy for development but even using all brownfield sites available – including those in the Grove Lane area – will still leave a significant shortfall in how many new homes the government has calculated Sandwell will need by 2039.”

The LDRS approached the interim chief executive for comment on the letter.

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter

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