Campaigners and politicians have given a cautious welcome to the Sutton Coldfield green belt landowners’ initial engagement meetings where they have revealed plans for the new 5,500 homes development.
The Langley Sutton Coldfield Consortium – which represents landowners and developers who control 94 per cent of the land by Walmley that will be turned into the new housing scheme – held public meetings at the Harvest Fields Centre this week, giving a first glimpse at their proposals for the land that lies west of the A38.
The plans include provision for a new district centre with shops, a café and a gym, a medical centre, a new secondary school, three primary schools, sports facilities, including floodlit pitches, a retirement village, parks and play areas.
Suzanne Webb, who led the Project Fields campaign group, against green belt building said: “The consortium spoke with us before going ahead and we reviewed the exhibition content and whilst of course 5,500 dwellings is still not optimal and to be honest it still hurts to think it is going ahead despite the overwhelming objection, these events are a positive start.
“It is very early days, with no development expected to start until at least 2021, and there are some significant hurdles to ensure the infrastructure is in place. We see these events as a step in the right direction and commitment that the consortium wants to listen to the community.
“Time will tell but what we do believe is that the only way forward is to work together to make what is a tragedy and desecration of the green belt into some form of positive.”
Sutton’s MP Andrew Mitchell, who held a meeting with members of the consortium, was keen that the engagement meetings were not a ‘simple box checking exercise’. He said: “The Gilmour and Owen families have the largest stakes in the development – both of whom have a track record of putting our local community first. However, the magnitude of this development makes it absolutely imperative to get it right the first time.
“Local councillors and I will be keeping a close eye on whether the development proposals reflect sustainability. This means new schools and health facilities as well as traffic and transport arrangements which ease congestion for my constituents.
“Right from the start, I have said that Sutton Coldfield must have significant input and control of these developments and that is why I have asked the Consortium to report what they have changed as a result of public engagement.”
Cllr Simon Ward (Four Oaks, Con.) leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, who attended the meeting with Mr Mitchell added: “We remain committed to ensuring that that the views of the residents of Sutton Coldfield are heard as the plans develop. We are determined to get the best for our Royal Town.”
Sutton town councillor, Paul Long (Vesey, Independents for Sutton) said: “This is the development that none of us hoped would happen and it’s going to cause significant problems with the roads infrastructure. But it’s good to see the Gilmour family and associates engaging with the public, hopefully in order to ensure a development that’s sustainable.”
While Vesey town and city councillor, Rob Pocock (Vesey, Lab.), added “I do not favour green belt development and did not support this scheme, but as the Government and council have approved it the big job now is to make sure the development is of high quality, and meets the community’s real housing needs.
“The developers have made the right noises in this presentation, but we need to make sure the reality matches the fine words.”
This week’s meetings were the first in a series of planned engagements, with further get togethers planed in Walmley. The consortium has outlined its proposals ahead of Birmingham City Council publishing its Supplementary Planning Document which is expected to be released this summer.