Bob Winkle, Chair of Beacon Action Group writes Letter to Editor of Great Barr Obsever

Peter Allen's article

Bob Winkle writes a response to Peter Allen’s article that was published in the Great Barr Observer on 10th January 2014:

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article in the Great Barr Observer last week by Peter Allen providing more history about Great Barr Hall. We have been friends and fellow members of the Great Barr Hall Action Committee since this was set up in 1987, both having actively campaigned together for a sympathetic restoration of the Hall and parkland.

I was dismayed therefore, to read that he seemed inclined to support the current Lapworth proposals, as for many years he has forwarded the view that the best plan would be to restore the hall to its original Georgian design, built off the existing footings. This being a smaller building of much simpler design without the chapel extension (billiard room) and other embellishments added at a much later date. The important historical connection that Great Barr Hall embraces dates back to its original design when members of the Lunar Society considered it “their favourite meeting place”.

Peter set out his proposals in his booklet “The Mary Scott Blueprint” published in 2004, which is available on the website:

In my opinion, the current proposals for the rebuilding of the Hall will result in nothing less than a pastiche of the later design of the Hall, having a footprint far in excess of the original. The fabric of the building has deteriorated so much that only two elevations are still remaining and these are in near state of collapse, with much of the brickwork and rendering having extensive damage, which will probably have to be rebuilt. Even the barrel vaulting to the cellars shown in the pictures has been destroyed by vandals. The only reason these elevations are being incorporated in the new building is to retain the listed status thus allowing the owners to claim enabling development.

I question therefore whether this new building with its extended elevations, added turrets and clock tower can be called a restoration when in fact it will be a new building. It will be absolutely unrecognisable to those who frequented the hall in those days and many of us who have lived alongside it in recent years and the historical connections will be non-existent.

I and many others question whether the cost of this elaborate new building, with the disadvantages it will bring, will be of any benefit to the community. A much smaller scheme necessitating less enabling development would most likely meet with approval. Is this grand and elaborate private estate requiring 59 new dwellings, loss of green belt open space, the walled enclosure along chapel lane, restricted access for some and none for others, a banqueting centre seating nearly 500 people and all the associated traffic problems etc, what residents really want?

Enabling development is considered to be akin to public money and as such cannot be raised and used without public involvement and approval.

Peter stated in his blueprint “I implore all involved parties to reconsider their positions. This is a very critical time for this exceptional estate. We just have one chance to get thing right. It is crucial the proper decisions are made before irreversible processes are set in motion.”

I believe we need to have much more community involvement before we reach an acceptable solution.

Bob Winkle  – Chairman Beacon Action Group

About Beacon Action Group

Beacon Action Group was formed in 1983 by local residents to resist insensitive development of the Great Barr Hall Estate.
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7 Responses to Bob Winkle, Chair of Beacon Action Group writes Letter to Editor of Great Barr Obsever

  1. Booths Lane resident says:

    Could you post Peters response as I’ve not received a copy?

    • Apologies but I haven’t seen a copy of this response yet. I’m sure it will probably appear online in a couple of days, or maybe Peter has posted it up on to his own website?

      • Local says:

        To keep everyone informed, I think it would be good of BAG to post this on as a main category to discuss, as done with other Great Barr Observer letters.

  2. Adam Short says:

    Please could you:

    1. Provide details of all developments which the BAG has supported since 1983.
    2. Publish Peter Allens response to the the above article which is in today’s Great Barr Observer

    Thank you in advance for your swift co-operation.

    • Bob Winkle and Peter Allen have been actively involved in all of the planning applications that have been proposed for Great Barr Hall for many years.

      A suitable planning application submitted on behalf of previous owners has never been accepted thus far, as they have either been refused by the planning committee or withdrawn by the applicant pending refusal.

  3. Adam Short says:

    Is Bob being serious?

    The Mary Scott Blueprint is what Bob thinks Peter should be promoting? From what I understand both Peter and Bob were expert witnesses to the Bovis appeal. Even at the appeal Peter accepted the Mary Scott Blueprint is a wish list un-related to the real world so if it wasn’t relevant in 2005 how can it be relevant in 2014?

    I will email Peter and ask him to reply to this post. I have a feeling he will think this is a joke. It seems to me that Peter has moved on over the last 10 years and what concerns me is that Bob may still be in same position if we wait another 10 – ie no development on Chapel Lane at all even if we loose the hall.

    The Beacon Action Group resists insensitive development however I am not convinced. I believe you oppose everything that is proposed however to see if you live up to your name please could you provide a list of developments which you have supported over last 30 years ie which have not been insensitive?

  4. Paul White says:

    Bob, I am pleased to see that you are of the same mind of many and in agreement that this development should not be cleared to happen in it’s current form or anywhere close to it. Sadly some people who are quite vocal on this application seem to be promoting the weak reasons to why it should get the green light whilst ignoring the strong reasons against. Political arguments and self promotion aside, we at both branches of UKIP, Sandwell and Walsall are 100% against this development, in fact our national policy is against building on the green belt at all. You have our full support and we will be continually canvassing local opinion as well as explaining why we believe this should not get planning approval.

    We will be watching for your comments and paying close attention to ensure that our activism is channeled in a correct manner and towards your chosen solution. We look forward to your public meeting with great anticipation and should there be anything that we can help with in anyway please let us know. I must say that i am pleased to see that Mr Watson, along with Valerie Vaz are taking an interest and appear to be against this crude development, however, i am saddened that even with all the public outcry, the local Labour party are indeed prepared to sit on the fence in much the same way as it appears are the conservatives.

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