Friday, June 09, 2006

What happened at the Ladywood Ward Committee

The Ladywood Ward Committee meeting took place last night. All in all, the meeting was a little better natured than the last one and Cllr Kath Hartley did a better job at trying to control some of the very small minority who try to dominate it every time. There were several important issues discussed:

Edgbaston Reservoir Development Plan

The first half hour was an opportunity to view the drawings and details of the possible future of Edgbaston Reservoir. I thought that there was too much information to take in and remember, so I've got hold of electronic copies from Joe Holyoak, the designer. You can view them here:

Interestingly, the plan specifically excluded the Tower Ballroom site, even though the proposed high-density residential development there is unlikely to see the light of day (if I get my way!). Mr Holyoak expressed his dissatisfaction at not being able to include this area in his design; this was echoed by many at the meeting. The Tower Ballroom site is a highly significant tranche of land, and its redevelopment can't be considered in isolation from the rest of the reservoir.

During the following discussion, there were a range of views expressed, from the plan being, 'A total waste of time,' to its being, 'Very sympathetic'. I asked specific questions on a number of subjects, including how the proposed funicular railway would be funded in the future, and how the activities of skateboarders would be controlled. On reflection, I wonder whether we shouldn't be building in an area for skateboarders: it would ensure that they didn't 'poach' the rest of the facilities, and aren't young people always saying that they don't have enough to do?

Overall, I think that the plan is a good attempt to improve the user facilities at the Reservoir (which is, after all, a man-made feature) whilst protecting and extending the amount of wildlife. However, the plan can't and shouldn't be considered in isolation from (a) the Tower Ballroom site (b) funding for the increased cost of managing the facilities (c) policing the facilities.

Redevelopment of Icknield Port Loop

Two outline planning applications were presented: one for land off Wiggin Street, the other for land off Freeth Street. I think it's fair to say that the officer from Planning and Regeneration got a bit of a kicking last night! To be fair, he did say that he had requested further information from the applicants and was still waiting for it. The main points of concern were:

1. The outline plans lacked sufficient detail for the meeting to make any real comments on the specific applications.
2. The Icknield Port Loop area must be considered as a whole, and applications for individual bits of it should be discouraged.
3. There is a significant need for family accommodation in the area, and the creation of self-contained apartment blocks is not appropriate for the area.

I broadly agree with the points above. We do need to be realistic about what we can achieve though, and in the end I would contend that some residential development is better than letting the area go derelict. The process is ongoing, and I think that residents made their feelings known.

Local transportation issues

I'll be brief on these.

The Jewellery Quarter Parking Zone is about to happen; I wanted to ask some questions about who's entitled to permits, how much they will cost etc., but the time wasn't available.

Ladywood Middleway is going to get a Red Route and have its subways filled in. The timescales have slipped a bit, but let's hope it gets done soon.

Coach Parking. It appears that something may finally get done about the chaos that can be caused in roads surrounding the ICC (e.g. Cambridge Street) by parked coaches. The police sound like they're going to get tougher with the coach drivers (some of whom are quite happy to get three tickets rather than move!) and the Council may be providing a proper city centre coach park soon. But really, this should have been sorted out long ago.

Summerfield Park

The renovation of Summerfield Park is basically complete; almost £1 million was spent in improving this facility. Good news.

Spring Hill Passage green/games area

At the other end of the process, there was a presentation by Groundwork regarding vast improvements to this area. They're going to ban the skips and put in some facilities for basketball, football and netball. The sooner the better...

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