Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What happened at the Ladywood Ward Committee

Last night's Ladywood Ward Committee meeting took place at Barford Primary School. Thanks to the school for hosting it - if I'd known there would be sarnies, I wouldn't have brought crisps with me! ;-) Now down to the issues...

Icknield Port Loop Development Initiative

The meeting heard from Planning and the major landowners: Isis, Concept Developments and Advantage West Midlands. First thing to say is that it was encouraging that they attended in the first place and appear genuinely interested in hearing what residents have to say.

Planning's target is to produce a family-friendly development with affordable housing. A draft masterplan for the Loop is being prepared and should be presented to the Committee in early 2007.

Isis is a joint venture company with British Waterways being the major player. Their objective is to do something more creative than just sell off land to the highest bidder. They've been talking to local interest groups (still some work to do there), and consistently found that residents want decent amenities, houses not just apartments, and that congestion along Icknield Port Road needs to be addressed.

Concept Developments is focussing on the Biddle and Webb area and envisage a mixed-user scheme including housing.

Advantage West Midlands is committed to a comprehensive scheme, but this may not take the form of a single planning application as the different players move at different speeds.

I asked whether the owners had spoken to Joe Holyoak, who recently presented a development plan for Edgbaston Reservoir (pictured). The areas are contiguous, and it's important that both schemes are consistent and sympathetic with each other. All said that they had.

One attendee made a very good speech about the owners getting excited about the development, looking at it as an opportunity to bring some European-class architecture to the area, and putting Ladywood on the map. Couldn't agree more.

All in all, a good start.

Summerfield and North Summerfield Housing

A brief but informative report told us that the current aim is to reduce the number of houses that have been converted into flats, and the amount of antisocial behaviour, including prostitution.

The investment in the area (e.g. better railings), had led to landlords putting their own money into the area, a sort of virtuous circle. Anyone who's visited the area recently will be aware of the transformation that's taken place over the last couple of years, and the Council hopes to use the project as a model to roll out across similar areas.

Barford School Playground Extension

There have been many objections over several years to this scheme; one of the main issues is that it requires altering a public right of way. A public enquiry is unlikely and final approval is in progress.

Asset Management Planning

Little to say about this one other than Ward service delivery will follow a hub-and-spoke model, with major centres delivering the bulk of services, and smaller distributed centres delivering a scaled-down equivalent.

Meeting Conduct

I was very unhappy with the way the meeting was conducted by Cllr Kath Hartley. One or two people were allowed to dominate, sometimes speaking flippantly for no apparent reason. In particular, I was shocked that an allegation of racism (albeit semi-serious) from one member of the public was allowed, with virtually no comment from the three Councillors present. The meeting is descending into a playground, and it must be stopped.

Additionally, Cllr Hartley waited for the owners of the land at Icknield Port Loop to leave, before asking members of the public to lobby more vocally for a swimming pool at the site the next time this comes up for discussion! Labour was in power in Birmingham for twenty years, and the only thing they achieved was closing Ladywood's only swimming pool at Monument Road. Now that they're out of power, they've put it on the agenda again, and they're asking the public to come in on this political maneuvering. Desperate...

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