Harborne resident Nick Noble talks about plans to build on Ravenhurst playing fields.
It appears that Birmingham City Council’s planning department seems to have a desire to concrete over the much loved open space and playing fields in the suburb of Harborne via several new development plans recently approved and submitted. By allowing the big housebuilders to have free rein to exploit this wonderful area, it will add serious amounts of volume to the housing stock which will inevitably impact on the quality of life and local services for its residents.
Harborne residents already struggle to get their children into primary school; to get appointments to see the doctor, or even to get on a practice list; to get on an NHS dentist’s roster; to park near their home or in the centre of Harborne. Well, this is about to get a whole lot worse.
It started in a small way with the addition of 16 houses close to Moor Pool. The original plans were for double this but the residents association successfully lobbied against them. It then moved to the Martineau Centre and the approval by the council for 121 units which it now transpires isn’t enough for the housebuilder and they want to increase this even further. Clearly the number ‘121’ resonates with the housebuilders as they’re now onto making a third project come to reality with the application to develop another ‘121’ units on the old Ravenhurst Playing Field.
Do the maths and you get to over 260 houses. Start equating this to people and you are not far short of 1,000 extra in the Harborne area. Wow – busy days.
Good for the council as that’s another 260 + houses paying council tax to a much beleaguered set of financial accounts, but at what cost? We residents all pay our taxes so why should we suffer the consequences of unfettered development? Shouldn’t the council be listening more to what the people on the ground have to say and how it impacts on their lives? The Localism Act is all about giving people a chance to say what they think, so surely now is a good time to take this on-board and listen to the residents as well as the commercial world of the housebuilder. After all it’s us paying for the council in the first place.
The laughable fact is that we are realists and appreciate that something has to give to meet the growing population needs. With the Ravenhurst development, the majority of people who attended a public meeting accept the need for some housing but not on the ridiculous scale they propose. Maybe common sense will prevail as no decision has been made yet but based on recent history the omens don’t look good.
Of course areas need to grow but as they grow surely the infrastructure around them needs to grow proportionally. The 2011 census showed that 23,001 people live in Harborne compared to 21,070 in 2001. In ten years the population grew by just under 2,000. The main two developments will come on stream at roughly the same time and add around another 900 in one fell swoop. Does this seem logical, and are our facilities growing to match this rapid rise? I don’t think so.
In the case of Ravenhurst it’s really not for a lack of trying. Back in 2005 the council said it would write to the owners of the land and ask them why the facility can’t be used for sport again. Nobody knows if the council ever did as they promised but what we do know is that other clubs and individuals made such approaches only to be met by a wall of silence. Our MP Gisela Stuart also approached the Oratory in October 2006 only to be met with the same wall of silence. One local resident wrote directly to the Oratory in July 2006 offering to buy the land to facilitate community use. Yet again there was no response.
So as the owners of the land and the builders of the homes won’t talk to us, it is clearly down to the local community and others who care about how our suburbs are being exploited to make their voices heard. We are realists and accept housing has to happen, but does it need to be on such a large scale and wouldn’t it be better for the community to retain some form of sporting facility as part of such a development?
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