NB Stewart is not running for election this year. He was the successful candidate for Acocks Green for 2015. Successful candidates’ pages are left on display as long as they are in office. For details of Acocks Green candidates for 2016 please click here
Questions and Answers
Q 1 After further work it is hoped that Acocks Green’s long-awaited
Conservation Area will appear before the end of 2015 See Our latest blog post on Acocks Green’s proposed Conservation Area This will mean that it will not be possible to make alterations to the external frontages of buildings included in the C.A. without planning consent. However, in order to help protect these buildings any infringements will need to be urgently reported. How will you help support this?
A. I have been involved with this project since its inception, as a Focus Group member and then as a Councillor. I have absolutely no doubt that if it were not for the draconian and unfair cuts to Council spending imposed by the LibDem/Tory government on Birmingham the Conservation Area would now be in place, but staffing has been cut to the bone to protect priority services such as Children’s Safeguarding. I will continue to work to bring the CA about and work with community groups to ensure it is enforced within the meagre resources available. But this is what “Government Cuts” mean in real life. Since the banking crisis in 2008 cuts were inevitable, but Birmingham has had far more than it’s fair share of them, like this year when the Government-preferred measure shows a 6% CUT in available resources for Brum, but AN INCREASE for Solihull.
Q.2 Also, on the subject of Conservation, there are many other properties in Acocks Green, which have some historic and/or
architectural or general street scene importance but which are not in the C.A. and either have no listed building status at all, or otherwise only a local listing which gives only some protection against alteration at the discretion of the Planning Department and Committee but no protection against demolition. How would you respond if a much-loved local building in one of these categories was up against a planning application which claimed to bring improvements to the area? (There is a good precedent here in the long-running, but now ended, saga of The Glynn Edwards Hall
A. Planning is “the regulation of land use in the Public Interest”. Planning Committee have to take quasi-judicial decisions balancing competing priorities and aspirations, such as, for example, the creation of jobs (important to many) versus the preservation of a building or greenery (more important for others). It is my role as a local councillor to make sure they have all the facts and opinions before them to make the decision. And it’s not just a numbers game (“my petition’s longer than yours”) but the strength of the arguments, as ultimately the Committee’s decisions are subject to Judicial Review.
Q. 3. Is there anything you would suggest to improve the present
appearance of Acocks Green?
A. I have been involved with the Focus Group and others over many years on this issue, from the late Bridget O’Neil’s “remove the railings” to the Smart Route. I think it will be the time when that work is completed, including the tree planting that will take place, to “take stock” of what needs improving next. I know some people have exiting examples from elsewhere of how the “greening of the Green” can move onwards. However I think that bringing greenery to some of the residential areas that are “deserts”, such as the Yarnfield estate, is also important.
Q. 4. The Morrison’s/Extra Care scheme for the old Lucas/Denso site on Shaftmoor Lane is no more. What kind of a scheme for this area would you now be willing to help promote and support?
A. When this scheme was approved by the previous LibDem/Tory run Council NO PROVISION was made for public open space desperately needed in that area, something I campaigned on at the time. Due to the demise of the Extra Care scheme and the inactivity on Morrison’s we have a chance to put this right. I have already asked for a review of the development strategy for the site to create a top-class “mixed use development” to include:
Public open space to help address the shortfall in that area in particular and Acocks Green generally.
Play facilities, so Yarnfield residents don’t have to treck round to the recreation ground, crossing the main road.
Housing affordable for local people, with a mixture of large family properties to ease overcrowding and smaller homes, especially for older people, both to meet their own needs and to free up houses for families.
New shops to meet local needs.
New light industrial buildings to provide jobs locally.
Spring Road to be made safe, with wider footpaths and frequent crossings.
Spring Road/Summer Road/Shaftmore Road/Olton Boulevard East junction to be totally changed to make it safe, with protected crossings.
Q. 5. The picture left shows Lisa Trickett (Cabinet Member for `Green Smart and Sustainable City’ and Acocks Green councillor John O’Shea contemplating an overflowing bin in Alexander Road Acocks Green on a recent walk to inspect problems. Rubbish continues to be a thorny issue for Acocks Green
and also see … The Cabinet Member acknowledged that the present scheme has `broken down’ in some parts of Acocks Green. How would you proceed to help reduce problems with rubbish in Acocks Green. Also, and particularly in the light of these problems, what do you think should happen when the Veolia Waste Contract for the Veolia Recycling site at Tyseley is up for renewal in 2019?
A. The vast majority see the introduction of wheelie bins as a great success, with most areas reporting a substantial decrease in litter.
However it has exposed bad practise and indeed criminality in a few areas, where previously commercial refuse was hidden amongst domestic black sacks. This was particularly prevalent where there are flats above shops and in areas with houses in multiple occupation and/or a high proportion of private landlords. The use of bins has stopped this, and indeed on Yardley Road regular enforcement action has reduced the problem.
The area that remains to be tackled is rubbish being left in front gardens around the bins, including furniture. The Council has already used its enforcement powers to tackle the worst cases, including Olton Boulevard East, Warwick Road, The Avenue, Alexander Road and Florence Road (ongoing). But we want to work positively with Neighbourhood Forums and other local groups to produce a cleaner streets strategy for each of such areas that makes sure people fulfill their obligations, leading to a better environment for all.
What would be in that strategy is a matter for discussion with all involved but any Council action would need to be part of it and not just a “one off” special pleading. And what we can’t do is subsidise commercial organisations and businesses such as landlords: they must meet their business costs out of their own resources and not expect hand-outs from Council Tax payers in terms of free extra collections.
In terms of the Veolia contract work is already going on to look at the options for the Council meeting its statutory duties for refuse collection and disposal and it is far too early to draw any conclusions on how the site should be operated. However I personally believe we must plan as a society to achieve Waste Reduction as far as possible, followed then by Reuse and then Recycling. When the current contract was let we were in a completely “different world” waste wise, and the lesson of the need for strategies and contracts to be adaptable over their lifetime of has been learned.
Q. 6. The ‘Smart Route’ on the Warwick Road through the centre of Acocks Green: a new single carriageway scheme with widened pavements and trees is due for completion this summer. (Note, since the discovery of an awkwardly situated BT bunch of cables in the Warwick Road there will no longer be extra parking on the Warwick Road.) Do you feel that when these scheduled improvements are complete the scheme will now be `finished’ and that Acocks Green should move on, or do you think that we should still be considering additional improvements in this area of road as and when funding becomes available: e.g. for work to the junction of Oxford Road/Warwick Road/Victoria Roads, where issues have been raised about safety.
A.I have largely answered this in my response to Question 3, although as a resident close to the centre of the “village” I am well aware of potential future needs: I just hope we have a Government that treats Brum fairly so we have a chance to tackle some of them.