Published on May 4th, 2014 | by Gaelle Finley0
MORE DEVELOPMENT OPPOSITION
Investing in infrastructure is vital for stability say local Handsworth residents.
64 residents signed a petition opposing a development of 34 additional houses off Honeswode Close but this has been entirely ignored by the Planning committee. The concerns of local residents focused on the lack of provision for road safety, strain on local schools and the loss of public open space.
The committee have said that Crick Lane, a former farm track, is a suitable access road to the estate. The track is marked on Handsworth’s Tithe Map of 1841. It is at least 170 years old and is too narrow for two cars to pass. There have been 43 accidents along this stretch causing serious injuries from 2005 to 2012 (Crashmap data). Local mum, Sam Collenette said, ‘When I walk my children to and from school, some drivers don’t even look. Last month a driver turned into the lane at speed when six children and two mums were halfway across. It was a close thing.’
Residents say that the area can’t afford to lose more green space. Much of the ward is in the most deprived 5% of local areas in England based on road traffic accidents, air quality, and quality of housing. (Living Environment Domain Data and other stats available on City Council website) According to local memories the former bowling green also provided croquet, boxing, tennis, football, community open days and summer fetes as recently as 1998. These provoke images of Handsworth that don’t chime with its reputation.
Lozells and East Handsworth already has more than double the number of people compared to similar sized wards in Birmingham. With a high proportion of the population under 16, there are not enough school places to go round. A £93,000 contribution from the developers to provide more school places has been waived by the Council because it alleged this would make the housing development unsustainable. Instead this burden will fall on local Handsworth residents already suffering from overstretched local services.
Designated as a playing field and used for sport and leisure for over 100 years, the green should not be lost. Handsworth already has high levels of social housing, at 41.4% compared to 7%,10% and 15% in nearby wards. The ward also has very low levels of green space at 8% of the total area compared to an average of 48% for the West Midlands. Although, thanks to the Parks team, Handsworth Park is a well cared for beauty spot, it can’t provide adequate facilities for existing residents who number over 30,000.
The irony is that despite its location on a former playing field, the proposed housing development has no provision for a play area or any community space. This is despite statistics showing that social housing is likely to have more children than adults. Birmingham City Council’s own Green Living Spaces plan states that protection of remaining open space is needed for urban areas to help combat the impact of climate change, improve air quality and support health and wellbeing. Handsworth residents will be left yet again to suffer the consequences of unsustainable development.
One resident reflected on the riots in Handsworth in 2011. ‘On the day of the riots the park was empty and there didn’t seem to be anyone about. It was a relief to go to the allotment and find people to talk to. It meant a lot to know I wasn’t on my own and that there were other people who were upset at what had happened. That community support should be available to everyone. It needs space to develop and without it the divisions between local communities will grow.’
The Parklands Residents’ Association is keen to create an exhibition remembering the Club. Anyone with photographs or memories of the Victoria Bowling Club off Hamstead Road is asked to send these to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With thanks to Sam Collenette.