Brownhills Tesco development – wheel fallen off?

I received a statement yesterday from Walsall Council iterating the official view on the Tesco redevelopment in Brownhills, and it looks like the project may be hitting the buffers. In the original PR puffs in the Express & Star, outline planning permission was due to be sought (and presumably passed through on the nod) last October, then by the end of April 2009, then May 2009… one assumes that it’s stuck in a van on the new ring road, heading for the long grass. The original Express & Star article can be found here.

The statement from Walsall reads as follows:

Councillor Adrian Andrew, Walsall Council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “At the moment, no planning application has been received and there is no timetable for one.

“If one is received we will definitely look to publicise it widely to get a wide range of views before we make a decision.

“As an authority we are always keen to attract new investment and create jobs where we are able.”

There is also a statement in the accopanying mail which reads:

‘What I can add is that there is categorically no link between Brownhills market and the Tesco development.’

Whilst I’m not doubting the credibility of the press office at Walsall, who do a fine job in often difficult circumstances, chatter from the LNP and certain members of the local committee would appear to contradict this. I would draw attention to the letter in the Advertiser here from Doug Birch where it’s all about killing the market in order to ‘connect with the retail sector in the High Street…’ and the general tone of acceptance in his letter seemed to indicate that the eradication of the market was key to improving everything.

In the meantime, the market closes today, following a breakdown in negotiations between Spook Erection, it’s operators, and the council, Express & Star article here. I also received a statement from Walsall Council about the market, which reads thus:

Councillor Adrian Andrew, Walsall Council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Officers have already been looking at options which include the possibility of the Council running the market if negotiations with Spook are unsuccessful.

“We want to ensure that Brownhills does not lose its market and we are working hard to try and ensure this.

“We are looking at a review of markets in Walsall and this will be part of this.”

This represents quite a sea-change, assuming that it’s not hot air and bluster. As I documented in my previous post, there seems to be a growing gulf between the local committee and councillors on this issue, and if any of the committee would like to mail me to clarify the point I’d only be too happy to publish your views here. I’d like to see Walsall take over the market; with decent policing and liaison there’s absolutely no reason for it not to survive.

Remember, there were always two competing proposals for Brownhills, but don’t forget that there was little money forthcoming for the non-Tescotown version. They can be found here, on the Walsall Council website… the market was always present in some form on both. They were, of course, just vague proposals, so should only be taken at face value.

The rough outline of the Tesco ideal. Vague, but likely in some form; from Walsall Council's website
The rough outline of the Tesco ideal. Vague, but once the most likely in some form – from Walsall Council’s website
Tesco take a minor role in this one, but where would the money come from - from Walsall Council website
Tesco take a more minor role in this one, but where would the money come from? – from Walsall Council website

To summarise; from being a done deal, the whole Tesco thing seems to have become a vague, fuzzy vision and we’ve just lost the market, which a member of the local committee saw as necessary to facilitate our benefactor’s dream. Now we have no market, and no firm plan for the new development. Excellent. Would the last shopper to leave Brownhills please switch of the lights? Thank you.

Thanks to the press office at Walsall for their help and assistance.

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13 Comments

  • Anon

    Those plans have nothing to do with Tesco – they were dreamt up by some architects appointed by the Council. No outside groups had any input as to what went into them, so they are nothing more than a pipe dream.
    Tesco still intend to redevelop their store and are going back to the Council with some revised plans.
    As for the market, to me it looks as though the Council had had enough of all the fake goods being sold, so refused to renew the operators license. They then stepped in to “rescue” the market by taking it over, thus making them look like heroes.
    The Council are now looking at two transport schemes for Brownhills, both featuring Red Routes – a one way system, and making Silver Street two way to act as a bypass to the High Street. Its very early days so don’t expect any announcements yet.
    As far as I know, the owner of Ravenscourt is not interested in selling, despite not making any money from all the empty shops and flats above.
    The Council and Centro would like to re-open the old railway line, but they currently don’t have the money to do so. There was talk of having a cheaper light weight transit system, such as the one used at Stourbridge.
    Brownhills will change eventually, but not as quickly as everyone wishes !

     
    Reply
    • Anon –

      I’ll address your comments point by point.

      That’s all very well, but doesn’t tally particularly well with the history. The whole Tesco thing was a done deal 12 months ago – read Walsall’s press releases – with the LNP and committee talking it all up. Then it all went quiet…

      Your statement on the market would be valid if Walsall had shown any previous inclination to take it over. They had no intention of doing anything at all until they realised what a problem it’s absence was causing. The case was not helped by various statements in the press…

      The council have been ‘looking’ at transport schemes for Brownhills since God was in short trousers, nothing new there.

      The owners of Ravens Court are just holding out for a better price as any sensible business would. That problem wouldn’t be insurmountable to any council or developer that were truly interested in the issue. This is the preliminary waltz on any such scheme.

      Centro would like to open the railway line, sure they would. But they don’t have the money and don’t have to provide it. Walsall will talk it up, but nothing will get done. Check out Marco Longhi’s blog for the true council view on the matter. The council will be fully in favour and gradually introduce more and more obstacles until the scheme becomes impossible.

      Brownhills won’t change until we get somebody in power who cares for it. Look at Darlaston – that’s our future. Bland statements don’t cut it, actions do. Hell, they can’t successfully plan a youth centre let alone the redevelopment of a community! Walsall Council have sat on their hands for over 30 years – it shows a certain naiveté that you think they should suddenly change.

      Best wishes

      Bob

       
      Reply
  • Anon

    Bob,
    With all due respect, the Tesco scheme is not a done deal! They still have to go through planning like any other development and amendments to the plans will be made in accordance with advice from the Council and local residents. The consultation last year included a display that was in the store for a week, with the development team attending on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to answer questions and take comments. A leaflet drop in the local area was also carried out.
    I know that everyone has been waiting for what seems like forever for something to happen, but these things take time!
    With regard to the Brownhills transport scheme, which has also been taking for what seems live forever, The Council are actually now looking into the two schemes – see here:
    http://www.walsall.gov.uk/index/regeneration/regeneration_places/regeneration_transforming_walsall_district/regeneration_brownhills/brownhills_transport_improvements.htm

    Once the schemes have been tested on computer models they will be put out to consultation. Local views are split on the options, with the traders favouring using Silver Street as a bypass and the residents favouring a one way system. The Local Transport Plan bid to the Government for Red Route funding will help pay for the implementation of which ever scheme goes forward. Personally I believe that a one way system would be a disaster for Brownhills, as the place would become a race track. You only need to look at the millions being spent around the country trying to remove one way systems introduced in the 70s to see how awful they are.

    The owners of Ravens Court are asking for silly money which is why no one is buying it. They are unwilling to develop it or even refurbish it themselves and so it continues to decay and be an eyesore for the town.

    Keep up the good work but try not to be so cynical, its not easy I know !

     
    Reply
  • ian

    I’ve read a few of your comments with interest…
    a few common threads seem to emerge: lack of leadership, lack of imagination, vested interests and apathy.

    What Walsall (and Brownhills) needs is an elected mayor – someone who will be in office for more than a year, someone who is doing more than just taking his/her turn to wear the robes.

    I know dear old Tom Ansell thinks it would be dangerous for all
    that power to be in the hands of one individual, but if we had the opportunity to vote for someone hopefully someone would emerge who actually had some ideas for improving the borough.

    Walsall in general, and Brownhills specifically, doesn’t have a Big Plan so bits and pieces happen here and there, as and when.

    We’ve got plans for a Gigaport, which sounds nice, but have we got the schools to provide a workforce for science and high tech industries? No, we’ve got some sports colleges and a couple of language colleges and a selection of just rubbish schools.

    There is no one at the helm, just jolly old Mike Bird, and he hasn’t got a clue; he’s just fire fighting, bless him.
    Meanwhile, Brownhills lurches from one thing to the next.

     
    Reply
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