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: Yes I support any moves which would help stop new supermarkets causing major damage to existing town centres such as Acocks Green shopping centre. If re-elected I will continue to consult with local residents about the type of developments they think are appropriate in their community and will represent their views vigorously to the Council’s Planning Committee. I will also continue to support improvements to Acocks Green shopping centre so that it becomes a more attractive place for local residents or visitors to shop in (see the following answers for further detail).
This July we will know the result of a bid for funding for the Acocks
Green section 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: Yes. I have been very actively involved in the work to develop a long term plan for Acocks Green Village for many years. The aim has been to develop a shared vision for the Village, which funding opportunities, such as the Smart Route, could then help deliver, rather than having to provide ad hoc responses to funding opportunities when they arise. Elements of this vision are widening of the current narrow sections of pavement, higher quality street furniture (with less clutter), more on street parking and traffic moving through the Village with a lower top speed. The implementation of a single carriageway to replace the current dual carriageway is a vital part of this vision. It frees up space for on street parking, will reduce speeding and makes it
easier for pedestrians to cross the Warwick Road.
If elected, will you actively also support ‘de-cluttering’ (removal of
excess street furniture) as part of the implementation of this scheme?
Answer: Yes, excess street furniture is confusing and creates an untidy and unattractive environment. There is strong evidence that ‘less is more’ with street furniture – for example removing unimportant signage allows pedestrians and road users to focus on the most important signs.
Acocks Green people are working, with guidance from BCC officers, ontheir own Conservation Area, proposal. If elected, would you supportsuch 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: Yes. I am a strong supporter of an Acocks Green Conservation Area.
Acocks Green has much high quality architecture which is a valuable asset and should be protected and handed down to our children in as good a condition as possible. I have arranged meetings between the Focus Group and senior politicians to promote the cause and will continue to support the efforts to create a Conservation Area if I am re-elected.
Just in time for the 2012 elections, Acocks Green Baptist Hall, (corner of Yardley Road and Alexander Road, Acocks Green.) has put forward another proposal to demolish the locally Grade A listed Glynne Edwards Hall (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: I must declare an interest here as I am the Acocks Green Ward Committee’s nominee on the Board of the Stockfield Community Association (SCA), which is a partner in the development of this scheme. However it is also important to say I will take all my decisions about the scheme in the interests of Acocks Green as a whole. My view is that the previous scheme was unacceptable, as it was badly out of keeping with local architecture. That said, I think the basic idea behind the scheme; to develop better community facilities, which will generate an income and sustain the statutorily listed buildings is
a good one, if a sound business case and scheme can be developed, which have a broad consensus of support amongst residents and local stakeholders. I think the new plans are a move in the right direction, getting rid of the big expanse of glass, which was a key feature of the original scheme. However there are still aspects of the new plans that I do not like and in my view remain out of keeping with neighbouring buildings. I am making representations on these matters to the developers. I think it is very important to have a wide consultation amongst all local residents and users of the facilities so that everyone can have their views and input into the ultimate design. If re-elected I will actively use my influence on the Board of the SCA to make sure this happens.
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: I am a passionate believer in the importance of libraries. I was a librarian at school and spent many hours in my local public library as a child. Acocks Green Library is one of the most visited in Birmingham and is used for a wide variety of community uses as well as the traditional purpose of reading and borrowing books. Many local organisations meet there and it has been the venue for the weekly Monday evening Advice Bureau of the local Lib Dem Councillors for many years.
Acocks Green Library’s opening hours were extended to the current 50 hours per week when South Yardley Library was closed for renovation in 2006 and were maintained at the increased level when South Yardley Library was re-opened. Despite the difficult financial times, Birmingham City Council has, unlike many other local authorities, been determined to keep all its libraries open, albeit with some reduction of opening hours. While this would affect Acocks Green Library, the Council has also significantly increased the amount of Community Chest funding available to each ward. The extra amount is more than is needed to keep the Library open for the current 50 hours for the full year. Councillor Bowen and I therefore proposed that funding should be allocated to do this until October. This ensures opening hours are maintained during an extensive consultation period amongst library users, community groups, library staff and other concerned groups about the optimum opening hours and for this to be compared with alternative uses for the Community Chest funding.
My clear pledge, if re-elected on 3rd May, is to support an outcome which keeps the Library open for the current 6 days. The precise number of hours and when they are (for example it maybe that another day of evening opening would be preferred), should come from the consultation period, but I would certainly ensure that funding is available to maintain the current 50 hours (or even increase them further) if that is what the consultation exercise concludes.
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 impromptu and urgent meeting outside the building in January. In a 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: Following the publication of the Police Authority report, referred to in the question, I organised a consultation of all residents in Acocks Green Ward. With 120 responses from right across Acocks Green, a clear majority, 64%, want the Police Station to stay where it is. I have let the Police Authority have the results of the survey and have pressed them to take full account of residents’ preferences as they develop their plans. I believe it is possible to keep the Police Station in its current building, while using the resources identified by the Police Authority to modernise the internal facilities, and allow any spare space to be used for flats or by another public or community organisation. This would be the best way of protecting the current building: keeping it, or at least most of it, in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed.
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, I will fully support the re-opening of the path so that residents can access the Leisure Centre from Fox Hollies Road. I supported past moves to assist Ninestiles with reopening the path, using Community Chest funding and would be happy to work with them in the future in order to give residents easier access to the Leisure Centre from both the No.11 bus route and the areas of the Ward to the west of the Leisure Centre.
What support will you be giving to the new Acocks Green BID Manager in her work to make Acocks Green shopping centre an attractive and popular shopping venue?
Answer: I have already helped to ensure the new Acocks Green BID Manager can get off to a good start by securing £70,000 of funding from the Council’s 2011/12 Local Investment Fund. This funding will be used to improve the street furniture in the Village, improving its appearance to visitors. It was important to help get the BID off to a flying start as the opening of the new Swan Centre poses a threat to the shops in the Village. I will continue to provide as much support as I can to the BID manager to help her do an effective job.