Campaigners battling to save green space

Yardley residents criticise “betrayal of trust” over playing fields.

Residents in Birmingham fearing the loss of their playing fields have criticised the guardians of the estate for a “betrayal of trust”.

The Yardley residents have been campaigning for six years against plans for housebuilder Persimmon to build on the land in Barrows Lane whose use for healthy recreational purposes has been protected for over a hundred years.

Having defeated a planning application in 2016 to build 82 homes on the site with a 1,500-word petition, the Yardley Community Trust is now embroiled in a renewed battle to prevent the Council from allowing an even bigger development of 110 homes.

The residents have criticised Central England Co-operative for wishing to sell its Sports & Social Club on Barrows Lane after ignoring all offers to discuss the future of the pitches, which are used by junior football teams.

Fay Goodman, Yardley Community Trust Spokesperson, said: “When they were a Municipal Co-operative in 1920, Central England Co-op were appointed as trustworthy guardians of the Barrows Lane site under a covenant issued by the Cadbury/Barrows family to protect and manage the site for the benefit of the local community.

“The clear intention of CEC is to relinquish their responsibility and to profit from the exercise. Yardley residents are outraged by this betrayal of trust.”

Fay claimed that offers made by local football clubs to maintain the pitches in exchange for using them have been ignored by CEC, and that an approach for dialogue by Birmingham City FC’s Community Trust has been rejected.

“The recent U-turn on the proposed European Super League showed the strength of feeling by grass roots football clubs and fans. We need the same support for football pitches for youngsters to play on, yet we have nationally lost over 34,000 pitches in a 13-year period between 2005 and 2018.

“This scandalous statistic demonstrates the veracity of green fields being covered with concrete by greedy builders – supposedly to satisfy our housing need. We know there are enough brownfield sites throughout the UK to accommodate that need, yet builders Persimmons want virgin land to make the most profit and CEC are willing providers.”

She continued: “It is estimated that we have enough space on derelict industrial land to build around 1.5 million properties in the UK. The number of brownfield sites continues to grow, outstripping the demand for houses on green land. There is absolutely no justification to concrete over any green land.

“Green spaces and parks generally act like the lungs of the city, cleansing and improving air quality in its proximity. The Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us the value of open spaces for air quality, tackling obesity and addressing mental health issues through physical activities.

She added: “Yardley is already over-subscribed with houses by at least a third. We are already below the recommended apportionment amount of green space raising serious health concerns.”

Yardley MP Jess Phillips has expressed her on-going support: “I fully support the Yardley Community Trust’s aim of retaining the Barrows Lane sports fields for the community. We have been fighting the development on this site for years, as building on this site would both deprive residents of local open space, and also overdevelop an existing residential area without supplying adequate additional amenities for the community.

“I sincerely hope the Central England Coop will give serious consideration to the Trust’s alternative plan for the site and engage constructively with residents to find a mutually acceptable outcome.”

Yardley East Councillor Neil Eustace, who has also been a strong supporter of the Trust’s cause, said: “Yardley needs its remaining green spaces protected for future generations. These fields are rich in rare wildlife and greenery. Future generations of local children need facilities for organised sport.”

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