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Birmingham planners refuse to back Battery Park scheme – changes demanded to £100m plan

Birmingham planners refuse to back Battery Park scheme – changes demanded to £100m plan

🕔05.Sep 2013

Sainsbury’s and Land Securities must make substantial improvements to their proposal for redeveloping Selly Oak’s Battery Park site if the £100 million-plus scheme is to win approval.

Members of Birmingham planning committee deferred a decision on the application, but it became clear during a lengthy debate that members are insisting on fundamental changes to the scheme.

No one backed the proposal in its current form, although most committee members said they backed the scheme in principle.

The proposal by the two companies, who have formed the Harvest Partnership, envisages a Sainsbury’s superstore, other shops and a life sciences campus for Birmingham City Council on the site which has lain empty and severely polluted for more than 25 years.

About 2,700 jobs would be created by the development, with 2,000 of those at the life sciences campus. Harvest has agreed to contribute £6 million to improve local transport links and to build a pedestrian route and cycleway along the line of the former Lapal Canal.

But several sticking points pose a considerable threat to what is the latest in a long line of proposals over the years to redevelop the Battery Park site:

-An initial pledge to restore the Lapal Canal has been dropped on cost grounds. Harvest proposes instead to protect the line of the canal by building a green walkway.

-Local residents are objecting to student accommodation proposed for the life sciences campus.

-There are further objections about “unattractive” pedestrian links, poor facilities for cyclists as well as concerns about scaling back the next phase of the Selly Oak New Road.

Failure to proceed with the scheme would be a setback for the council’s Labour leadership, which is promoting the life sciences campus and institute for translational medicine as a huge boost to the Birmingham economy.

The application will return to the planning committee before the end of September following discussions between council officers and Harvest about possible changes to the Battery Park proposals.

Any refusal of planning permission could result in a high profile and costly appeal if Harvest thinks its case is strong enough.

Neil Carron, project designer for Harvest, said he was hopeful of reaching a compromise with the committee, but he warned that the partnership would not be able to continue with the application if changes demanded by councillors made the scheme financially unviable.

He insisted that research conducted by Harvest indicated a “silent majority” of Selly Oak residents were in favour of the Battery Park scheme. A survey of 2,500 residents conducted by Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe found 69 per cent of respondents in favour, although 87 per cent wanted the canal restored.

However, planning committee member John Clancy described the scheme as “not good enough”.

Cllr Clancy added that it was time to stop trying to regenerate Birmingham through retail-led developments, and added that the Sainsbury store would harm shops in nearby Harborne.

“It’s a matter of the same old same old. This scheme is not ambitious enough for this site.”

Image: lapal.org

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