Printed on Friday 17th January 2014 in Great Barr Observer
The proposed plans for the restoration of Great Barr Hall, together with the development of 57 new luxury executive homes, has rightly led to a great deal of community concern being expressed in recent weeks in Great Barr.
Although the site is located just outside Sandwell, the plans will impact greatly upon hundreds of residents on and around the Chapel Lane area in Great Barr.
Last week, I met with campaigners from the Beacon Action Group, who I have worked closely with for many years. The group was formed by residents in Great Barr to resist insensitive development in the local area.
The Beacon Action Group is right to raise concerns about protected greenbelt being lost and registered historic parkland. They, too, are right to raise their worries about a lack of real community consultation before the application was submitted.
I find it extraordinary that such a major planning application could be lodged by the developers on Christmas Eve with Walsall Council. It’s not right and I really do wonder whether the developers were just hoping nobody would notice.
Luckily, the Action Group has been successful in securing an extension to allow residents more time to respond. Any application of this size deserves proper consultation. It’s particularly important given that the houses need to be built before any restoration works on the hall could commence.
What worries me is that there appears to be little to stop the developers simply building the 57 new homes and failing to follow through on their plans to restore the historic hall.
It seems that residents will be denied any form of public access to the historic parkland and lakes in favour of a gated development for those who can afford a luxury home on the site.
Nor does the proposal for restoration of the hall seem to be very in keeping with its original simple design. That’s before we even get to the traffic problems that the development will exacerbate on Chapel Lane.
I’ll be doing everything that I can to support the Beacon Action Group and local residents in the coming weeks. This includes submitting my own detailed comments to Walsall Council about the proposals.
If you live in the area and are concerned, please visit the Beacon Action Group’s website for regular updates. Details of a public meeting, which I hope to attend, will also be posted on the site shortly.