I noted an engaging article buried in the back of last Saturday’s Express and Star (23rd May 2009) – as usual for any interesting Brownhills story, there’s no online version, so I’ve OCR’d the text below:
“Visions of housing complex revealed
By Ben Lammas
This smart new housing complex will replace rundown maisonettes built in the heart of Brownhills. Demolition of the buildings created in the 1960s and 70s, is under way.
Walsall Housing Group (WHG) , which manages 20,000 homes throughout the borough, today unveiled its plans to build the 73 homes in their place. Both flats and houses, all of which will be affordable rented accommodation, will be built on the site with car parking. The scheme will link in with the planned £40 million transformation of Brownhills.
It will create an attractive gateway to the town, which already features a landmark miner’s sculpture at the other end of High Street.
Carole Wildman, director for regeneration and development at Walsall Housing Group (whg), said: “We are working in partnership with Walsall Council to embark on ambitious regeneration projects that will deliver transformational change to the borough.
“Walsall is on the brink of a new era and this partnership working promises real change.”
Three hundred new homes are set to be created in Brownhills in the next eight to 10 years over 11 sites.
Other developments will include the expansion of the Tesco supermarket, creating dozens of jobs, new shops and and extra Care Housing scheme provided by specialist care and housing provider Housing 2l.
Walker Troup Architects, which has been designing the homes plan, said in a statement: “The proposals are intended to create a landmark development forming a strong edge to High Street, Ogley Road and the Wyrley & Essington Canal providing a new gateway to the. south-eastern end of Brownhills High Street. ”
Pictured with the article were an artists impression of the proposal in that usual other-worldly, architecture of the future style, complete with oddly silhouetted figures (dig the rucksack, chaps!) and poorly parked car – they’ve obviously visited the town… and somewhat amusingly, a photo of the Housing 21 site on the opposite side of the road, where they’re actually building sheltered housing rather than knocking it down…tell me guys, when you took that photo, what on earth did you think the patch of bare earth behind you was? Didn’t the two remaining, half-empty blocks of maisonettes give you a clue?
Aside from the usual cringeworthy corporate-regenospeak stock phrases (‘deliver transformational change’,’new gateway’,’brink of a new era’) this looks to be good stuff, so being the inquisitive ferret that I am, I decided to pay Walsall Council’s planning site a visit and take a look at the proposals there. I’d link to the architects, Walker Troup, but they don’t have a website that I could find, oddly enough. There’s a wealth of great stuff to peruse and study on the council website, however; the application reference is 09/0645/FL and can be looked at in full by entering that number in the planning interactive search page here (I’m sorry, but the planning site doesn’t allow linking to applications directly). The main development Design and Access Statement (a downloadable document containing most of the pertinent information) can be found here in PDF format – Adobe reader required. This is a great document and shows general proposed views, information about layout and environmental concerns – I recommend giving it a read. I would, however, caution observers that this development isn’t a done deal and has yet to be approved – I’ll report here when there’s any news. This may just be fluff on a wish-list.
Looking at the design proposed, it seems to be modernist, bold and maybe a little ugly; however, it appears to be quite well thought out and avoids many of the pitfalls of the maisonettes it replaced. I’m not altogether struck on the roof line, but hell, you can’t have it all. If it comes to pass it’ll be the first major development of social housing in the town for several decades, and it’s nice to know that Walsall Housing Group and Walsall Council seem to have remembered that Brownhills exists and is currently burdened with prairie-like wastelands where many of their previous, failed developments of social housing used to stand. The irony of the notion that this project will replace an earlier modernist, bold design of the 60’s isn’t lost on me, either. All one can do is hope that we’ve learned from past mistakes – town planners owe it to the citizens of the town to get it right this time, and lets hope that they do.
Just for illustration, here are some images taken from the application, and some direct links to documents on the planning website which may be of interest.
A quick message to the folks at the Express and Star – it ain’t all about Wolverhampton! Can we please have a greater spread of Walsall stories on the website? Do a search on nearly any major Brownhills story on your site and it turns up next to nothing…