Supermarket developments around Acocks Green have been very much in the news this year, and petitions both supporting and opposing the proposed Morrison’s development on Shaftsmoor Lane were handed into the Planning Department. It would now appear that a decision will be made on this scheme, and another one for an Asda based development in Reddings Lane, prior to the May 3 local election. However, proposed modifications to the much discussed ‘Draft National Planning Policy Framework’ now seem to be seeking to take into account the types of concerns expressed by people, in regard to unchecked supermarket development, both in Acocks Green, and across the country.
Do you support these modifications, and, if you were elected what steps would you be taking to help protect Acocks Green shopping centre from decline as a result of ‘out-of-town’ shopping facilities?
Answer: The proposed changes restore priority for brownfield sites and town centre development over ‘out-of-town’ sites, which is to be welcomed – given that the original policy offered a free-for-all on building. However, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating – even the revised framework looks to offer a bonanza for planning lawyers, which has historically often favoured the deep pockets of the developers over the local planning authority and community interests. It is important that we extract the maximum benefit to the local community for any development – the Morrisons scheme, for example, brings a new care village and housing onto a brownfield site and has local support in terms of the jobs that it will bring to the Yarnfield Estate.
This July we will know the result of a bid for funding for the Acocks Green section of the Birmingham City Council/Solihull MBC/Centro Smart Route route scheme on the Warwick Road. (A Smart Route is a red route with special facilities for buses. If you are unfamiliar with this scheme there is a report on a meeting between Birmingham City Council Transportation Department staff and Acocks Green delegates below here If you are elected will you support this scheme, which will involve the implementation of a single carriageway through part of Acocks Green centre, to replace part of the present dual carriageway there?
Answer: In principle, yes – but I would always want to see the detail. It is important that we encourage people to shop in the Village – my family use our local stores regularly – and I would be concerned about any project that might affect that. The proposals as put forward look to meet these requirements. I would also want to see more than just bus facilities – I’d like to see better support for cycling and roads that are suited to the needs of pedestrians, especially taking into account the needs of those with mobility and sight problems.
If elected, will you actively also support ‘de-cluttering’ (removal of excess street furniture) as part of the implementation of this scheme?
Answer: In consultation with residents – yes.
Acocks Green people are working, with guidance from BCC officers, on their own Conservation Area, proposal. If elected, would you support such a scheme in your work as a councillor, e.g. speaking and voting in favour where possible. If the answer is ‘this depends’ please elaborate.
Answer: In consultation with residents – yes. The borders need to be defined to ensure that it includes areas that properly represent the growth of the suburbs and properties that properly illustrate that historical development.
Just in time for the 2012 elections, (Acocks Green Baptist Hall, corner of Yardley Road and Alexander Road, Acocks Green.) proposal to demolish the locally Grade A listed Glynne Edwards Hall appears to have just re-emerged. (This featured in last year’s questions.) At the time of posting we are unclear about precisely how the re-designed building would appear, but page 3 of the new ‘briefing’ document linked to above makes clear, by omission, that the third building on the site, The Glynne Edwards Hall would be demolished: see highlighted section. The, widely opposed, scheme previously put forward to local people, involved the replacement of the Glynne Edwards Hall with a plate glass design. It is not yet clear what form the new design would take. However, owners of the Hall claim that the new scheme, like the old one, would enable them to finance proper maintenance for the two statutorily listed buildings on either side, by letting rooms in the new building. See our main, 2011, Glynn Edwards Hall posting here here for more information about the previous scheme. The new briefing sheet also directs to www.stockfield.org which describes the 2011 scheme, implying the new one is not very different. If elected, would you support or oppose the scheme to demolish The Glynne Edwards Hall. Please give at least one reason in your answer.
Answer: It is essential that the statutorily listed buildings are protected and properly maintained and that the halls continue to be available at sensible prices for the local community. As a user of the hall (my sons have been members of the Cub group there), I can see that work is required to make the rooms fit for the future. The Liberal Democrat/Conservative government has decided to impose VAT on improvements, alterations and restoration work on listed buildings from next year, so this will increase costs by 20% for owners of buildings like the Church.
We are also concerned to protect our local public buildings by ensuring that they remain well used. There has, recently, been concern about reductions in library hour provision in Birmingham Libraries. If elected, would you be concerned to maintain the present 50 hours per week opening provision for Acocks Green Library (Building locally listed Grade A) and, if so what steps would you take?
Answer: The library service in Acocks Green has proved to be of huge value to people over the years – including my own family. I’m dismayed to see that the hours are planned to reduce to 40 from October – the current additional funding that has been agreed is purely temporary. While I would like to see the library continue to be funded for 50 hours, I think we need to consult with the wider community as the Community Chest was designed to help small, local projects, not cover up Tory/Lib Dem cuts. Indeed, the three councillors originally had a cross-party agreement not to use the Community Chest to cover cuts. If further funding is agreed later in the year, that will mean that other projects will not be funded – supporting the library hours for a full year will eat up a quarter of the Acocks Green budget.
There has been a proposal that Acocks Green Police Station should be moved from its present location, to a more central one, and the building either then sold or demolished. A sentence in a report to the Police Finance and Resourcing Committee in January reads:
There are no custody facilities at either Erdington or Acocks Green. What is proposed is the REPLACEMENT of each of the stations with new buildings.
This produced a response in the form of an impromptu and urgent meeting outside the building in January. In recent email Bob Jones, Chair of West Midlands Police Authority Finances and Resources Committee promises that local views will be taken into account ‘& and if the best option turns out to be staying where we are then that is were we stay’
What do you feel the future of Acocks Green Police Station should be, and how would you help protect the locally Grade B listed building?
Answer: My first preference would be the retention of the current, Worcestershire-era building in police service. If that should prove impossible, then the building needs to be protected in terms of conversion for further use – perhaps returning it to residential use, as the building was originally partly designed. I would not support any proposals that changed the external view of the building.
My broader concern here is over the threat to policing in the area – the building is currently heavily used by the police service and it seems clear that the current unfair cuts to policing in the West Midlands – with the projected loss of 1600 officers – can only impact on the use of this building, although I have received assurances as to the continued future of the vital neighbourhood police team, which provides the visible local policing in Acocks Green. The Police Authority have committed to maintaining a local presence in Acocks Green and I will hold them to that – I will continue to challenge the Police Authority and the new Police and Crime Commissioner to get the best deal for Acocks Green.
A public footpath path running between Fox Hollies Road and Fox Hollies Leisure Centre has been closed for the past five years, causing great inconvenience to local people. (See full details of story here) If elected would you support the re-opening of this path so that it can be used by residents of Acocks Green, and nearby areas, who wish to exercise at the Leisure Centre
Answer: Yes – presuming that there is no security risk to the pupils of the school, which I do not believe that there is. (Full disclosure – one of my children is a pupil at Ninestiles school).
What support will you be giving to the new new Acocks Green BID manager in her work to make Acocks Green shopping centre an attractive and popular shopping venue?
Answer: I’ve supported the idea of the Acocks Green Business Improvement District for a long time and I’m delighted to see that businesses have agreed to it. If elected, I will support Sandy and the BID fully to deliver a shopping centre that has a long term future.