Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum
Minutes of the Meeting held on 13th February 2012, Stirchley Community Centre
Present: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Members of the Forum’s management committee, Emma Larkinson from Stirchley Prospects, Councillor Nigel Dawkins, Councillor Tim Huxtable, Sgt Isobel Knowles and 42 others.
Apologies: Bill Bird, Roxie Collins (Stirchley Happenings), Jean Glen (SPSNF), Dave Jee and George Weil.
Peter Walker took the chair and welcomed everyone to the meeting. The minutes of the meeting held on January 9th 2012 were circulated and agreed as a true record.
Matters arising from the minutes
There were no matters arising from the minutes.
Update from Stirchley Prospects
Emma Larkinson from the Community Interest Company Place Prospectors outlined the progress of the Stirchley Prospects project that she and Jayne Murray have been running from the former Crafts ‘n’ Sew On shop on the Pershore Rd. The project began in June 2011 by researching the history of Stirchley with a view to making a series of interventions aimed at improving the village.
Subsequently a series of public service workshops brought together local people with experts in transportation, planning policy and urban design to discuss the current traffic situation and the opportunities offered by the proposed ASDA development. As a result of the transport workshop a series of drawings illustrating suggested improvements to the Pershore Rd were produced; these will be available to view in the Stirchley Prospects shop on March 9th between 6 and 8 pm. The planning workshop was followed up with a questionnaire that was distributed through the SNF and local traders to determine local opinion as to how any 106 monies could be used; the most popular ideas were shop front improvements, increasing footfall through the provision of activities and better car parking. The urban design workshop, facilitated by architects Bryant Priest Newman, resulted in a submission to the planning department regarding the design of the proposed public square.
Stirchley Prospects have also worked in partnership with the owners of the International Supermarket on the corner of Church Drive to install an artwork entitled “Prosperity” that references the sources of Stirchley’s past affluence.
The future of Stirchley Village
Councillor Nigel Dawkins thanked the Chairman for inviting him to the Forum and began his talk with an assessment of the current state of Stirchley village. A number of reasons were suggested for the poor state of the high street: the age and size of the retail units, the narrow pavements and lack of clear car parking, and the relocation or loss of the factories and businesses upon which Stirchley traditionally depended. The closure of the Bournville Lane Baths in 1987 was described as an “act of vandalism” at a time when Stirchley was already in decline and in need of investment.
Since Councillor Dawkins was elected in 2002, he has been working towards bringing a large supermarket development to Stirchley as this offered the most realistic option for bringing in the investment required to kick start the wider regeneration of the village. He reported that Tesco are definitely coming to Stirchley, although there are still a number of hurdles to be overcome. Tesco will bring regeneration to the North end of the high street with a new store, new retail units, associated landscaping and traffic improvements, a restored Stirchley Baths and the redevelopment of former Kwiksave. Councillor Dawkins believes that this significant regeneration will attract further investment to the high street.
Stirchley Baths are to be restored as a replacement community centre; this will form part of the new civic centre for Stirchley incorporating the library and Friends Meeting House. Councillor Huxtable stated that the £3.5 million cost of this project is being funded through section 106 monies, but BCC will be guaranteeing this sum until the judicial review of the sale of land to Tesco by the council is resolved. The Co-op instigated this action that has set the development back by 5 years, but with BCC support the restoration of the Baths will commence this year.
Councillor Dawkins conceded that supermarket led regeneration was “not everyone’s cup of tea”; in 2002 he had personally opposed the original planning application submitted by ASDA for the Arvin Meritor site as Tesco were expected to open soon, and the development would result in the loss of industrial land. However, the changed economic landscape meant that he was now looking very closely at what the current ASDA proposal could offer. He has stipulated that any supermarket development should not have an adverse effect on existing businesses; consequently the vehicular entrance from the Pershore Rd has been eliminated from the application. In order to support the existing small scale retail business model, ASDA would fund a Stirchley Village Regeneration Board which would administer the allocation of hundreds of thousands of pounds to projects that would bring Stirchley up to standard and attract new businesses over the next 10 years. The planning application is yet to be decided, but ASDA have been told that the chapel must be retained.
A local resident expressed their concern that the Co-operative supermarket would fail as result of these new developments, creating a large derelict site in the village. Councillor Dawkins stated his belief that the Co-op would respond by reconfiguring its business model; additionally he hoped that the Co-op would gift the Friends Meeting House to BCC so that it could form part of the new civic quarter. Emma Larkinson reported that the Co-op are to let the Friends Meeting House to a tenant from the community sector.
Another resident questioned why the council couldn’t buy the former Levines building adjacent to the Friends Meeting House; Councillor Dawkins stated that this would never happen and that the owners of Levines were trying to rent it out, with no success to date.
Concerns were raised about the car parking provision associated with the Tesco development. One resident felt that the car park was too distant from the high street to function as a shoppers’ car park; a number of other people expressed their preference for the car park to be at the front of the store. Councillor Dawkins responded that there were 450 spaces that would be available 24 hours a day and that the car park was located at the rear of the store as any development was required to have a functioning street frontage. A resident asked whether either Tesco or ASDA would be open 24 hours; Councillor Dawkins stated that this would not happen.
The current problems associated with illegal parking on the Pershore Rd were raised, as it was thought that these should be addressed before the supermarket developments went ahead as they would exacerbate traffic congestion. The “tidal” parking system was criticised but Councillor Dawkins explained that this was the fairest system for local businesses and that it should work, but traffic wardens were legally required to give drivers 20 minutes’ notice before issuing a ticket. Councillor Dawkins was however willing to reassess the tidal system; Emma Larkinson added that the Stirchley Prospects transport workshop had produced a proposal to enhance the Pershore Rd for both road users and pedestrians. Councillor Dawkins reported that Tesco had been required to prove that their proposed strategy for traffic management would work; likewise ASDA were required to submit a traffic analysis and BCC would make a decision based on the greater good. A resident of Fordhouse Lane expressed the opinion that their interests were being sacrificed to the demands of high street businesses; they added that the vehicular entrance to ASDA and consequent relocation of bus stops would result in the loss of on street car parking spaces which they depend upon.
A representative of Stirchley Happenings questioned the limited focus of the Stirchley Village Regeneration Board (SVRB) on improvements to the retail offer; they felt that this approach overlooked the grassroots community groups that could really benefit from extra investment. Councillor Dawkins stated that the SVRB would share the same aims as these voluntary groups, and that they could be represented on the board. Emma Larkinson highlighted the opportunity to support new business start-ups, and pointed out that both LOAF Community Bakery and the Birmingham Bike Foundry had been incubated through the Stirchley Community Market. Emma Larkinson wanted clarification on the structure and remit of the SVRB, and questioned how it would relate to the neighbouring bid by Cotteridge to become a Business Improvement District (BID). Councillor Dawkins responded that the SVRB would be a legal entity whose funds would be held by BCC as the accountable body, and that members would include local residents, traders and councillors who would be able to call in expertise. A member of the SNF’s committee felt that there were already a large number of voluntary organisations working to benefit Stirchley, and questioned why a new organisation was required when the SNF could perform a similar role; Councillor Dawkins responded that the sums of money involved were too great. Emma Larkinson pointed out that the SVRB would only go ahead if the ASDA application was approved, and questioned why alternative vehicles for regeneration such as BIDS and Community Development Trusts had not been considered. Councillor Dawkins reassured the forum that the SVRB was a standard model that offered the best return, but the comparison he drew with the Aston Pride prompted a concerned resident to raise the potential for corruption in the granting of contracts.
Councillor Huxtable announced that the SNF had been granted a £700 by the Bournville Ward Committee, and that this was the seventh consecutive year that such an award had been made. As with the SVRB model, the SNF is free to spend the money as they see fit, but BCC is the accountable body.
A representative of Stirchley Happenings and a member of the committee raised their concerns about the public consultation process for the new Community Centre; Councillor Dawkins responded that there would be a meeting of the Friends of Stirchley Baths in the next two to three weeks and that there would be an opportunity to influence the design. In response to the ground floor plan that had been produced for public consultation, Councillor Dawkins suggested that this was not a final plan, although his preference was for the entrance to be at the rear of the building.
A commitment was given that the Indoor Bowls Centre would not be moving into the Indoor Tennis Centre at Billesley, but as these facilities shared a number of services, a “world class” Indoor Bowls facility would be provided adjacent to the Indoor Tennis. Although there has been no reduction in the Community Facilities Replacement Fund agreed with Tesco, BCC has experienced a substantial cut to its budget, and financial savings are to be made by streamlining the running costs of any new facility. Councillor Huxtable confirmed that £1.5 million is to be allocated to the Indoor Bowls and that this will be spent in the 2012/13 and 13/14 financial years and that it will not result in the loss of amenities from the Billesley Indoor Tennis Centre.
A local resident praised the council for their work on resurfacing Hazelwell Street’s pavements.
The Chairman thanked Emma Larkinson and Councillor Dawkins for coming to the meeting.
Sgt Isobel Knowles reported that the police were working on a Business Watch with local traders, and that the theft of vehicles had been reduced by 50% between December and January but that the theft of licence plates was still a problem. Two boys had been arrested for stealing number plates in Ashbrooke Rd and given curfews, but any concerned car owners can have anti-theft screws fitted to their number plates free of charge at the Cotteridge branch of Halfords if they present a letter from WM Police.
There was no time to take any questions from the floor.
The Friends of Hazelwell Park will be holding a meeting on Sunday February 19th, 4.00pm at Stirchley Community Church, any interested local residents would be very welcome.
Stirchley Prospects are holding two drop-in sessions at their shop for the Hazelwell Lane memorial project: these are between 7.00 – 9.00pm on Wednesday February 22nd and Wednesday February 29th, and the project will conclude with a celebratory walk on Sunday March 3rd beginning at the Hazelwell Pub at 2.00pm and finishing in Hazelwell Lane.
The first Stirchley Community Market of 2012 will be on March 6th at the Stirchley United Working Men’s Club, 4.00 – 8.00 pm.
Stirchley Community Group are holding an Open Day on Wednesday March 7th at Stirchley Community Centre, 10.30 – 11.30am and 7.00 – 9.00pm.
The next Police Tasking Meeting is on March 14th at Masefield Community Centre.
Date of the next meeting
The next meeting of the SNF will be Monday March 12th, 7.30pm at the Community Centre.
Disclaimer notice on behalf of the Stirchley Forum Management Committee.
1. The Management Committee does not normally have prior knowledge of items which will be raised as part of the Any Other Business (but the Management Committee will help facilitate such items where it does have prior knowledge and which are in the interests of Stirchley)
2. The Forum is not aligned to any political party or one group and hence will hold a neutral stance to all political items which are raised at the meetings; the forum may take a stance (positive/negative) on planning applications discussed at the meeting or on changes to community/neighbourhoods services which affect the Neighbourhood Forum area
3. The Forum’s Management Committee will not allow a person or organisation to use the Forum’s meeting as a means to any political end.
4. All residents and businesses within the Forum’s area have the right to attend and speak at the meeting. (Business owners, not resident within the forum area, do not have a right to attend and speak at SNF meetings, but business owners, not resident within the Forum area, cannot make up quorum)
5. The Forum or its Management Committee will not be held responsible for leaflets or other media which is handed out by third parties either at or following the Forum’s meeting. The views of any such leaflets or other communication are those of the distributor/publisher and not necessarily those of the Neighbourhood Forum.