I attended the Ladywood Ward Committee meeting on 22nd March 2006 at St Paul's Church, St Paul's Square. All wards have Ward Committees that meet periodically to discuss ongoing matters of interest to ward residents, and anyone can attend.
It was good to see a change of venue for this meeting, which reflects how the ward is developing, and I would like to extend my thanks to the authorities of St Paul's Church for allowing the meeting to take place there.
One of the most important topics being debated was the proposed Tower Ballroom redevelopment at Edgbaston Reservoir. Cllr Rice reported that Cllr John Alden (Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture) will not sell the land to the developers and it's been earmarked for leisure, not residential use. Hopefully this will put an end to this issue!
There was a report concerning planning gain, which is money paid by property developers to the Council in recognition of the impact that a development can cause. For example, planning permission for a supermarket may be accompanied by planning gain to improve the roads surrounding the site. We were told that a lot of planning gain money has been 'stalled' - I don't know how we can get developers to cough up when they're supposed to, but there's a lot of money at stake here and we need to do something about it.
There was a very interesting presentation about the future of New Street Station (which sits within the ward). I must confess that I still have some reservations about the proposals as they stand. I thought that New Street was a bottleneck due to train capacity, but I was told that the problem's passenger capacity. Hmm, OK!
We were shown some flashy animations of the new station; as usual, it was a bright sunny day and people were just hanging about on the concourse having a laugh. Sadly, little was mentioned about whether the number of platforms will be increased and whether any additional daylight will reach them. In addition, the official website (www.renewstreet.co.uk) contains little or no information of use to the public at the time of writing.
There was also a brief discussion about whether New Street would be renamed. Seems a bit pointless to me, but I'm sure it would keep someone in a job!
You won't get any argument from me that New Street needs to be knocked down and rebuilt, but if we're going to spend £500m (including £300m of public money) and cause huge inconvenience over the five years of construction, I do think that we need more emphasis on trains and passengers and less on shopping and branding.
Moving on, there was a very useful presentation about redevelopment of some sites fronting Great Charles Street. Cllr Bore wanted to include the coupling of two sections of Queensway alongside this redevelopment, but I spoke in opposition to this. Every time there is an accident in Queensway, it can back up as far as the M6, and increasing the length of the tunnel will only increase the risk. After several others also spoke in opposition to Cllr Bore's proposal, the Chair (Cllr Hartley) backed away from having a vote on the matter.
The proposed Chamberlain Gardens Residential Parking Zone should provide some respite for residents, although one or two people voiced concerns about whether it will be adequately policed. We'll have to see how it pans out and increase enforcement if required.
The speaker on Jewellery Quarter matters was obviously passionate and committed, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. Improvements to CCTV and street lighting are going to happen, and there is also a proposal for a public square by the 'Big Peg'. Long overdue is the proposal for a health centre and pharmacy in the area. Great stuff!
However, it was a real shame that his report was cut short due to lack of time. In addition, the topics of Coach Parking, City Centre issues and On-Street Parking around the Middleway weren't discussed at all. In my opinion, a couple of people were allowed to dominate the meeting with lengthy questions and comments, and I think we need more discipline from the Chair to ensure that these meetings are all that they can be.
Maybe it'll be down to me to chair the next meeting..? ;-)