Friday, November 04, 2011

Acocks Green Ward Committee - 2 Nov 2011

Just a quick update on the Acocks Green Ward Committee, held Wednesday night in Severne Road JI School and plunged into darkness on a number of occasions thanks to motion sensors controlling the lights. This is from notes and memory, so errors are possible, but not intentional.

The main agenda item was the proposal for a new Morrison's supermarket on the Denso site on Spring Road. This would include not only the supermarket, but also an Extra Care village and housing. There was a good turnout from Morrisons, Extra Care and the developers and they expect to bring the plans to committee before Christmas, with initial site works for the store starting in May or June 2012 with an eight month construction time. As one of the site occupants, AEC, is still to relocate to a new site on the Birmingham Business Park, the whole construction process for the three phases of the scheme is expected to take around three years.

This is planned to be a large format store and will include a petrol filling station. The Extra Care village will provide 278 units with a mix of residents - from those who need sheltered housing to those who need quite substantial support - as well as facilities available for the wider community. It is also hoped to bring back into use the derelict car park atop the railway line, as the developers have just agreed a lease with Network Rail. It was also made clear in the meeting that the development is essentially a package - the Extra Care Village's costs are reduced by the gains from the store development and that would seem to be critical to its viability.

As part of this development, there will need to be work done on the surrounding highways. In particular, the junction of Spring Road and Olton Boulevard East will be remodelled, changing the alignment of the road and installing traffic signal controls. Pedestrian crossings will be added to Spring Road, including a zebra crossing outside the station and a pedestrian refuge further down the road. This latter caused some concern from one of the residents present, who felt that it should be a proper, signal-controlled crossing and the developers seemed happy to take this on board. Given the volume of traffic you would expect down that road once the store opens, this seems entirely sensible and I think it is quite important that the store doesn't unintentionally discourage pedestrian access from the Yarnfield estate opposite by making the site effectively isolated. There will also be a dedicated right turn lane, although not signal controlled.

Morrisons are also promising a local labour agreement, which will require them to hire 90% of the employees from within a given radius around the site. Positively, this will apply not only to the store staff, but also to those employed on construction and in the Extra Care Village, which is expected to employ about 60 people by itself. As always with developer's promises, words are cheap - delivery is key.

I know that there are concerns from within Acocks Green about the likely effects on the Village and those worries need to be voiced within the planning process. The reality is that the forthcoming planning guidance from central government offers little wriggle room in the face of sustainable development proposals and this would seem to tick a whole range of boxes. The Asda plan for a retail park on the Eaton site on Reddings Lane has also appeared in recent weeks and this is interesting, but it seems unlikely that both will be developed.

Your thoughts on this would be welcome.

Elsewhere, Amey sent a representative along to talk lighting. They are currently replacing about 1000 lighting columns (not lamp posts) a month, which sounds a lot until you realise that Birmingham has 95,000 of the things currently, but will have around 80,000 when Amey have finished. Amey are carrying out letter drops where columns are to be resited and marking the pavement with yellow paint, including an indication of the height of the new column.

The new streetlights are all LEDs and this is long-lasting and highly energy efficient technology, which will reduce the electricity bill for street lighting by £1.8 million. Amey don't want to waste the light, so the lamps are designed not to cast light much more than 2-3 metres behind them, putting all the light where it needs to be. The aim on residential roads is to light from the footway edge to footway edge, not into front gardens. On more major 'traffic routes', then the lighting has to cover an area extending some 5 metres back from the roadway to ensure that drivers can see anybody approaching the road. Lamp posts are also being relocated to the edge of the footpath where they are currently sited by the road or to behind the verge where they are currently on a verge. This protects both the lights and careless drivers in accidents.

The poorly sited lights on Yardley Road were raised again at this meeting - there are a couple of newly relocated posts that are right in the middle of the footpath - and Amey undertook to look into it.

Other items of interest were two planning applications. One is yet another plan to redevelop the site at the end of Francis Road (search here for 2011/06797/PA), which had approval some while ago for redevelopment with flats and has a new application submitted for ten two-bedroom houses and a turning head, which will at least help deal with the access problems for emergency services, delivery and refuse vehicles. However, looking at the plans, the site is very cramped. A few of the homes will have postage stamp back yards and some won't even have those, with one having a back door opening virtually onto the canal. From discussions with residents over the last planning application, I know that they actually want the site brought into residential use and aren't resisting change for the sake of it - they want the environment improved.

Elsewhere, there is a proposal for land behind 230 Fox Hollies Road and Hazelwood Road, (search here for 2011/06865/PA) and effectively extending the relatively new housing development on Green Acres with an additional 12 properties. Again, this is likely to be approved, but the two middle properties are in an odd location out of keeping with the others.

Other than that, we had the usual routine items. Some more expenditure from the Community Chest - supporting the Christmas Lights up at Fox Hollies, although Springfield have declined to help out, so there won't be any on their side of the road!

Perhaps the key issue upon which to invite comments are the supermarket proposals. Thoughts?