Residents renew fight to save playing fields

Appeal launched to help save Yardley community facilities.

Yardley residents have put out an appeal to professional football clubs and asked for donations to help save two playing fields and a social club from developers.

The campaigners are reaching out to clubs to buy the Co-op Sports & Social Club in Barrows Lane so that it can remain a community asset.

They have also launched an online crowdfunding site to raise £5,000 for the Yardley Preservation Community Trust to pay for professional advice to help secure the future of the facility.

Yardley residents fought off an application by the Co-op to build 82 homes on the site in 2016 with a 1,500-signature petition. They are now faced with a resubmitted application for housebuilder Persimmon to build 110 homes on the land – after claiming that all pleas to the Co-op to discuss its continued community use have been ignored.

Fay Goodman, Yardley Preservation Community Trust spokesperson, said: “The final ‘shots’ in our David versus Goliath battle with the Co-op are to reach out to professional football clubs and obtain the best possible professional advice to prevent the sale of these vital local assets to a private housing developer.

“It was on these playing fields that Midland football stars Craig Gardner and Darren Carter first played the game – and the full-size football pitches and hall have been used by local children for playing games and events for many years.”

Fay added: “With the arrival of Covid-19 and its terrible impact on those with underlying health issues, the need to retain green spaces and playing areas and to improve air quality in the area has never been greater.”

The Yardley Preservation Community Trust has also produced a business plan to preserve the pitches as a community facility. It includes encouraging football for the young and walking football for elderly and vulnerable; fitness classes for all ages and abilities; youth centre activities supported by West Midlands Police; community events and the development of allotments and growing spaces.

Historically, the then-Birmingham Co-operative Society was appointed by the Cadbury family in 1920 as a trustworthy guardian of the Barrows Lane site under a covenant to protect and manage it for the benefit of the local community. Fay says the destruction of green land in Yardley contradicts the Co-op’s own environmental policy document and violates the Rochdale principles upon which the society was founded. As part of a nature corridor, it will also have an impact on the habitats of wildlife including tawny owls, bats and hedgehogs.

Birmingham has the highest incidence of child asthma in the UK, with a study of 350,000 GP medical records showing that people in rural areas who live within 1km of green spaces or parkland suffer less from respiratory diseases. Yardley itself was identified as a child accident ‘hot spot’ in the 2016 Birmingham Road Safety Strategy because of its high and congested levels of road traffic.

Fay added: “Yardley is already oversubscribed with new houses by at least one third, according to local council figures. It also has below the recommended amount of green space, with the continuous housing development over the past five years raising serious health concerns.

“The Co-op, ignoring all attempts by residents to negotiate, are trying to sell off the land at Barrows Lane and relinquish responsibility for it. Unless we stop them, future generations will suffer the consequences. The UK has lost over 20,000 playing fields over the past ten years. We must not let Barrows Lane become another sad statistic.”

The crowdfunding site in support of Yardley Preservation Community Trust can be found here.