Update on Great Barr Hall

We have had some time to read the planning application and rightly there are concerns and questions over it.

The long established Beacon Action Group now have a web presence and you can read their views on the following links

FACEBOOK
WEBSITE
TWITTER

They are planning a public meeting and I will let you know the details as soon as they publish them.

There is a lot of positions within this situation ranging from no building at all to accepting the plans as they are. there are legitimate concerns of course and these are well explained by the Group.

However there are other issues around the whole area, that should be discussed around this, these are

– The security of the current NetherHall residents
– The failure of Bovis Homes to complete what the original planning application said
– The impact on Park Farm residents, which is not mentioned

I will state again that I am personally still minded to support the application.

The Beacon Action Group have managed to get an extension to comments referring to the application due to the timing of the application over Xmas.

This is good news and still gives time for a debate but there are many fixed positions in this that will never be happy. We have to appreciate that and try and get the best result for all.

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22 thoughts on “Update on Great Barr Hall

  1. I have been working closely with Bob Winkle and have already assisted them. I am also meeting with a few representatives next week. My understanding is that the meeting is for residents immediately affected in Chapel Lane area.

    I have also secured an extension as such to the consultation period and all representations will be accepted throughout this process. I have lodged concerns that the sending of letters just before Christmas gives the wrong perception.

    Councillors are organising a full planning exhibition at the Collingwood Centre for people to see in detail the plans and ask there own questions and lodge their own support or opposition to this proposal as their will be a mixed view unlike the Bovis proposal 10 years ago.

    We will let people have the details as soon as finalised.

    A simple ‘no’ to this proposal without any discussion or alternatives put forward is not an option in my view. There will be concerns and to alleviate them compromise and discussion must take place.

    • Adrian if the BAG meeting is for only those affected on the Chapel Lane side then the majority affected there are not Walsall residents where the decision will be made.

      Any meeting should also involve surely those within the ward which the decision has to be made, whether councillors, MP and other interested parties.

      Again like we saw with a closed meeting for Netherhall residents and is not about time to put up a meeting for all interested parties regardless of where they live ?

      Not an exhibition but a full on meeting with councillors, MP, Planning officer, owners and architects all on a table answering questions from the floor ?

      I will be going to the BAG meeting (as long as free) not to ask questions but to see how people are reacting and what is said.

  2. Adrian, just confirm that BAG have said open to all

    “The meeting will be open to whoever wants to attend. The residents of Chapel Lane don’t live in the planning authority as they come under Sandwell but will be majorly affected as the access to this development is from the lane and the greenbelt is currently their vista. Many people will be affected by this development but in different ways. The idea of the meeting is to share views and make people fully aware of the whole proposal. We hope to have a date confirmed soon.”

  3. I know most of people directly affected on Chapel Lane are not within Walsall – I have been working with Bob not just now but or a long time. I also have experience working over there when consulting on other issues such as traffic calming.

    A full planning consultation exhibition will have Councillors and planning officers in attendance – we will ask the architects and i am sure they will attend. We have done this before with other issues in this ward and beyond and it has been very successful both opposing an supporting applications. The whole point is that everyone can ask their own questions about what affects them – in a public meeting there is often not enough time from my experience to get to all the individual issues – can you tell me how “questions from the floor” are more valuable than residents, Walsall or Sandwell, questions on a one to one basis with planning officers, architects or even Councillors.

    As an aside the Nether Hall Park meeting was organised by residents for residents to discuss issues affecting Nether Hall Residents – so where you get closed meeting from is beyond me.

    I have enough experience to know and realise that they may not be Walsall residents now but who knows what the long term future holds – because I don’t.

  4. Adrian, you have so far been non committal, what are your feelings on this application? An application to place(some may say dump) 57 houses on our protected green belt and registered park land. I would suggest that listening to those with the most expertise on the subject – BAG – that one can only be against. If the development of the land was able to offer something to the local residents of Great Barr then it may be seen in a better light, however, it seems the result of this development will see not only the destruction of green belt and part of Great Barr Park, however, furthermore it will see the end of any chance the local residents have of enjoying this part of Great Barr as it will be basically ring fenced from them!

    This land if i understand correctly, along with the hall was gifted to the people of Great Barr many years ago and the transfer from its ownership by the people to a third party was basically by default due to occupation not as many years ago. Thus we end up in this position due to the third party allowing the decay.

    I could never support this application in it’s current form and quite honestly i would only support with a heavy heart any proposal that included building on the greenbelt if it gave something back to the people. Peace and quiet surely cannot be classed as something tangible to give to the people as they pay their taxes to be able to expect this anyway! There is nothing else for the people of Great Barr to gain from this development other than this, so i say to you Adrian and anyone else that has an interest or the chance to stop the development in it’s current form, please do whatever you can to do so!

    • to my knowledge Paul the land has never been gifted to the people of Great Barr, Walsall, Birmingham or Sandwell. the history is documented fully by Peter Allen on his excellent site – http://www.greatbarrhall.com/

      The mistakes of the past was around the mid to late 80’s, when the NHS were selling it off we could have had all three councils do something then, it was missed.

      Since then it was always in private hands and to this day it is not a place for anyone to visit and enjoy (say like Barr Beacon or Sutton Park) and nothing to do with the Council’s either or local tax payers.

      If you say no to any development then you basically write off any hope of restoring the land and building.

      you said you would think of an alternative, I am guessing from this post you have none ?

    • Hi Paul apologies it has taken me a few days to respond – I did tick the box to say update me if responses but something not gone right.

      My involvement in this specific instalment of the issue has been for a while and frankly we have lost a decade to resolve this issue with the previous owners who did nothing other than, in my view, make the situation worse. Two potential buyers (groups) approached me at the time the site was up for sale I gave them both the exact same advice
      1) speak to planners
      2) speak to English Heritage as they effectively have a veto
      3) speak to Bob Winkle and Peter Allen
      4) Consult with local people on both sides of the boarder
      5) Want/need some sort of public access

      When the 1st people did 1 and 2 which I organised, it immediately put them off. Group 2, the now current owners were not put off and continued to communicate with Bob and Peter up to a point, and, through architects, consulted with residents (notwithstanding what people may think of the quality of the consultation) they did it more than once.

      There has always been, in my time, an acknowledgement from English Heritage etc that there would need to be enabling development to restore the Hall and Gardens.
      There have of course been numerous ideas and proposals for Great Barr Hall.
      Bovis wanted to change into flats – the default answer was no and we all opposed it,
      West Brom wanted their training ground here and some homes for the players – the default was no and we all opposed it.
      The previous owners wanted two huge properties overlooking the lakes – default answer was no we all opposed it
      These are just the proposals I can remember off the top of my head.

      I supposed the real issue is that we all locally need to answer some questions
      Do we want the hall restored and bought into use?
      Do we want the gardens and parkland restored?
      If the answer is yes, what are we prepared to see/compromise on to achieve what we want?
      There are other questions of course.

      It is private land and has been for most of its history – it started life as a stately pad.

      I have heard more people in favour of something, especially those who have actually looked at the plans, and some who live near the site (granted in Walsall Borough) but there are still a lot of questions.

      My issue of defaulting to the answer is NO is my experience of the Bovis development and also the fact the Great Barr issue has been ongoing for 40 years nearly (it should have been a millennium project but before my time).

      Going back to Bovis – Politicians of all colours, aspiring politicians, the community and community groups all opposed it and the battle was between who could oppose it more. None of us acknowledged, or wanted to believe, that something was going to happen regardless of what opposition there was. It was govt land (NHS) with very high land prices (back then) and the then Labour government in John Prescott was where the decision was finally going to be made. Bovis played the game by initially asking for 650 houses and reduced it 450 and of course looked as though they were listening. From my experience since that event – which has been extensive in regeneration and development – negotiating and compromising can actually achieve more than an outright no and it is possible had we, as a community, negotiated with Bovis and the Govt to an extent we may have got a better outcome and a development more in keeping with the rest of the area rather than for example 200 apartments on the site with no thought or provision for over 50’s accommodation something we really need around here.

      The fact remains the Hall and grounds are in private hands. From my knowledge should there be a call to get the site in public ownership (something bob winkle and i had a meeting with the lottery about) and deliver a refurbished hall, parkland and gardens we are taking approximately £15million minimum investment let alone the revenue to run and maintain the area.

      So how do I feel about it, and apologies for the background to get to this point, I don’t like the idea at all of development on previously undeveloped green areas but I also do not like the idea of the parkland and gardens continued deterioration as part of our heritage – I think some serious thought needs to be had on the hall and what is left of it but that is for the owners and what the community think, I do believe that we need to ensure that despite it being private land there is public access for local people to enjoy this green idyll in the middle of the conurbation. We need to ensure that we have more control / influence over what is eventually there and not rely on the Planning Inspector or Secretary of State to make the decision as we did with Bovis – so at this point I am certainly not defaulting to the ‘answer is no’ but want to ensure that everyone has all the facts to make a considered decision and to see if there is any movement for compromise on all sides.

      • Not much I can do but to agree with that Adrian.

        Lets look at the history for one sec and when the NHS vacated the site the time was right then for the three councils who all share in the history of the place to have jointly done something, Walsall, Sandwell and Birmingham.

        Why this never happened I do not know, neither you or I were around at the time, if this have been taken into say a joint trust then run equally by all three who knows what could have been achieved.

        Time gone for that, I certainly would not want public money spent on the place over say children, social services etc and the public would not go for it anyway.

        So the only way is private money and the way to fund it is an enabling development. Are the plans perfect, heck no and the access issue has to be changed if possible but this is the best of any plans I have seen since being actively interested in the place.

  5. Hi Adrian, Ian and Paul,
    An absolute NO to this rotton application is a completely valid option; Not only from that of my perspective, but also from that of many other local residents. It is also official UKIP policy. I have discussed this latest proposal to further desecrate the Green Belt Great Barr Park with many of my friends and neighbours and they are all totally opposed to the application. The only local people in favour of the application that i know of are Ian (Robathan

  6. ) from Pheasey/Park Farm and 3 or 4 individuals from Nether Hall Park. To date, i do not know of a single resident from Chapel Lane, Coronation Road, The Grove and Merrions Close, our good Staffordshire neighbours from West Bromwich East, in favour of the proposal. Adrian, i fundamentally disagree with your views regarding NOT having a public meeting for all local residents to attend on this issue. There should be one; soon; and it should be democratically open to all local residents from Nether Hall Park, Chap

  7. and you alternative is Steve ?

    Have you got one ?

    I have asked before, Adrian is asking and it would be good what you would propose to rebuild the hall and associated lands to somewhere their near former glory.

    • Ian, the responsibility of an alternative does not have to be up to us, that responsibility lies with the owners! It is their responsibility to come up with a plan that suits the majority and not the minority!

      • who are the majority ?

        Have you undertook a proper questionnaire about it ?

        Didn’t Lapworth’s survey results show support for an enabling development that was widely distributed, I certainly filled it in, did you ?

  8. Seems the gifting is legend Ian, shame really that it is not found to be true under the circumstance i guess.

    Upon reading the report so far i have the following observations:

    It is also a shame that the current proposals offer nothing really to the locals apart from the suffering NHP residents on occasion.

    Seems the only people really going to gain are the paying type such as wedding and hotel guests.

    Quite how they can claim that it will have no ill effect on Chapel Lane traffic wise is beyond me.

    Perhaps twice a year or maybe even more often when they have farmers markets etc we all stay home, as we will not be able to get through the traffic for sure!

    … and no, not yet got a better idea and i doubt they would be interested if i did.

  9. What you have to remember Paul is that this is private land and the planning rules for listed buildings and Land allow enabling developments for restoration reasons.

    this in fact has always been private land none of us ever had the right to go on there and if you or I did and did do in the past we were trespassing.

    I will address the traffic now and the major reason is obviously at rush hour for access to J7. Now 57 homes and a few hotel guests will make little difference to that. I drove up there at 7.20 last Monday and took me 10 minutes to get through the lights.

    • Yes it enables development for restoration reasons sadly, but there is a line to draw when development is unreasonable like this is. Development to refurbish it maybe ok under certain circumstances, however, development to pay for a business venture is a different matter! And that is exactly what this is! Lines in the proposal include things like “the general public will be allowed to use the park land when paying guests”.

      A line in there that worries me is:

      “Access may have to be restricted at times due to weather conditions or for operational reasons”

      Operational reasons? What operational reasons? God forbid they follow a story line in “Emmerdale” and consider rock concerts or the like!

      Unlike you Ian, i have been in the hospital grounds on many occasions quite legitimately and not as a trespasser, either for Charity discos i used to give, as a DJ for the club house or as a patron of the club house too. In fact i think i have even been to the odd garden party there too.

      You say a few hotel guests, are you having a laugh? I would suggest it will be many, added to probably 104 vehicles of residents from the new houses, many service vehicles and then the hotel staff, plus more.

      My fastest shortest route home should be along Chapel Lane from Jnt 7 but i dare not take that route for fear of traffic and losing a mirror. Do you also really think that all traffic will enter from Birmingham Rd? I would imagine a good amount will also travel along from Barr Beacon end of Chapel Lane too.

    • I disagree that there will be little impact on traffic accessing Chapel Lane, especially when you view the proposed plans for the hall/hotel. These plans include a proposed massive extension (almost two thirds bigger than the original footprint of the hall) for a banqueting suite, with 40 tables, each with 12 seats, so a capacity of 500! This combined with the restaurant, ground floor conference rooms, 10 bedrooms and only 50 car parking spaces, will have huge traffic implications for Chapel Lane, every day and at weekends.

      http://www2.walsall.gov.uk/dcaccess/applications/13-1567-FL/GBH-06%20Hall%20FF%20plan%20proposed.pdf

  10. Hi Ian, Paul,
    As Paul correctly points out, i don’t need to have an alternative to this proposal to oppose it. As for the worthless Lapworth survey; myself and most other genuinely local residents simply ignored it. A democratically fair and open public meeting for all local citizens will i’m sure show the real views of people in regard of this appalling new attempt to further desecrate the local Green Belt. Paul’s real concerns together with those of a number of residents and our fellow Staffordians on Chapel Lane, Coronation Road, The

  11. Grove and Merrions Close in relation to an increase in road traffic in the area are in my estimation probably a better indicator of potential problems and nuisance to come if this clearly unpopular application is given the green light by Walsall MBC in April.

  12. Green light will be given im sure! Local residents never had access to the parkland and never will I think. The hall will be serving the locals as a hotel, restaurant or banqueting hall, what else do they want, an airport?

  13. Hi Sid; An airport, well why not eh? John ‘Lord Bovis Of Hull’ Prescott International perhaps?? It seems a minority of people around here won’t be satisfied until our green belt areas are nothing more than a few photographs and happy memories; and when they’ve done ruining our neck of the woods no doubt they’ll be moving up to target the green belt around Orchard Hills, Streetly, Barr Beacon and Aldridge.

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