Published on January 10th, 2014 | by Gaelle Finley0
At the Lozells and East Handsworth Ward meeting on Tuesday January 14th (Welford Primary School, Handsworth, Birmingham B20 2BL, 7pm), residents will be able to voice their objection to the planned development in Douglas Road cul de sac.
The main objective is to try and get a proper community consultation and impact study which will allow residents to insist the Council address the wider impacts of their house building over the last decade.
If you would like to add your objection, there are several options:
1. register your objection on www. birmingham.gov.uk/planningonline (Application Reference 2013/09107/)
When objecting, please use the petition wording:
‘We strongly object to the application to build houses in the cul de sac off Douglas Road ref. 1TU2013/09107/PA. and ask that Birmingham City Council immediately suspends this application process, ceases building work on the site and undertakes a proper consultation on the impact of this application on school places, traffic congestion, cleaning services, pollution, health services, children’s play, nursery places and the environment.
Furthermore we demand that Birmingham City Council sets up an independent enquiry to explore, audit, assess and publicly report on the planning, housing and regeneration decisions and actions taken by Birmingham City Council in East Handsworth to determine whether or not these have complied with the Mature Suburbs Development guidelines, Local Development Plans, North West Corridor Regeneration Plan, East Handsworth Neighbourhood management plan and any other relevant planning and development guidelines and plans in operation since 1999 and to call a halt to any further housing developments in Handsworth until this study has been undertaken.’
3. go to the meeting (see above).
4. if you cannot attend the meeting, please send your apology to Mahmood.firstname.lastname@example.org, referencing housing density/land off Douglas Road as your point of interest.
The grounds for the residents’ objection are multiple:
Primary School classes are bursting at the seams and school playgrounds are tiny compared with other areas of the city and filling up with mobile classrooms, further reducing space. This is disastrous for educational and health outcomes ; we have very high rates of childhood obesity and asthma locally.
Secondly, an increasing number of local Secondary school children are having to travel to schools away from Handsworth (e.g. George Dixon in Bearwood), just inside the distance that would trigger travel subsidies for the kids, leaving already financially stretched parents with yet another cost and resulting in young parents who were raised and have family support in Handsworth moving out of the area to be closer to said schools.
An increasing number of Pre school places will be needed – these provide childcare and essential support to parents, many of whom are newcomers with poor or non existent english language skills. One local centre is offering just 3 weeks of care per family per year.
Individual health visitors in this challenging area with high numbers of children on the ‘At Risk’ register have caseloads of over 400 families. GP surgeries are struggling not just with NHS reforms but with the extra demands that arise from a doubling of population, without additional resources to cope – especially in dealing with the new residents from Eastern Europe.
The public health impact of this overcrowding has yet to be clear but this much we know:
– fecal pollution of the run off water from properties whose sanitation provision has been badly modified for multiple occupation end up in the lake in our park,
– air pollution increases with the extra cars and especially the diesel vans and mini buses favoured by many local newcomers in pursuit of their business activities, which does not help overweight children with asthma,
A clean, green environment with space for children to play has featured in the top three residents’ concerns in every community consultation undertaken since the mid 90s. These include studies undertaken by SRB, Pathfinder, Neighbourhood Forum, Constituency/District forum as well as the post riot studies. Yet these concerns have been repeatedly ignored with each council officer and department regarding this concern as not being their responsibility. As in ‘ my job is to ensure x number of houses are built in this financial year’. The mature suburbs guidelines have been totally ignored and seem only to be applied in middle class areas.
Poor street cleaning and refuse collections are the subject that has come up most often at residents’ meetings for twenty years. These continue to be inadequate, leaving our area looking like a tip and kids walking to school through heaps of rubbish. We know from research undertaken by environmental wardens some years back that we have a very high number of multiple occupancy with inadequate provision for waste storage. This coupled with the transient nature of these occupants who have no stake in the local community results in it being dumped in the street. The feeling is that the situation will worsen when the wheelie bins system is put in place.
Traffic gridlock at certain junctions near the schools is becoming commonplace – residents in Murdock road now say they frequently cannot get parked in their street, never mind close to their home. Pavements are regularly co-opted as parking spaces, causing problems for those with pushchairs, mobility scooters and wheelchairs. The physical condition of many of these pavements, which were repaved at great expense during the regeneration years, is now very poor, and cracked and dislodged slabs abound.
We all accept the need for more housing in Birmingham but Handsworth residents are tired of being the easy option to cram in a bit more housing without any concern for the impact this will have on the area and its inhabitants.
It is galling to be told that this is reasonable because only a mile away, Handsworth Wood ward has an excess of space in relation to housing, so one can take an ‘umbrella view’ and lump both areas together – residents are still waiting for a legitimate explanation of this ‘umbrella view’ since Soho ward is closer to Douglas Road than Handsworth Wood. And Soho Road itself suffers from overcrowding.
Despite the desperate need for housing, the decision to cram more houses into our already overcrowded area can appear to be deliberate social engineering which will unintentionally ensure that we continue to experience education, employment and health problems way above the city and UK norms.
With thanks to Sue Green, Douglas Road resident.
Graphic : Hunt Emerson (Handsworth, circa 2003).