Everyone act normal – they’re watching!

Cute, huh? Original image removed at the request of Anon, 24-08-09
Cute, huh? Original image removed at the request of Anon, 24th Aug 2009

I don’t really know how much of the reader comment that is contributed to Brownhills Blog is read by my regular readers, but I receive a steady stream of interesting, supportive and often very witty feedback. I’ve written an eye-watering 78 articles which have received a stunning 202 comments. I think I need to get out more, but until I do, I’d like to draw into the light an interesting contribution to the post I wrote on the 20th June 2009, ‘Brownhills Tesco development – wheel fallen off?‘ made by an anonymous poster whose tone gives the impression of possessing inside knowledge.

Anon

Submitted on 2009/08/07 at 5:31pm

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 !

When I first read this, I was surprised at the tone of the comment, as well as the late response. The commenter  gives the impression of having a greater knowledge of the situation than me – which is fine, but I can’t really accept an anonymous comment as being authoritative. I replied…

Brownhillsbob

Submitted on 2009/08/07 at 9:17pm

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

I waited a while for a response, but nothing was forthcoming until this afternoon, when this comment arrived from the same source:

Anon

Submitted on 2009/08/13 at 2:44pm

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/…

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 !

I’m a bit bewildered by some of the content of this message. What I meant by the Tesco development at one point being ‘…a done deal…’ was that although planning permission had yet to be sought, the press and the LNP were talking it up as a certainty. Note the comments  from Doug Birch ‘when the new development comes on line’ and so forth. From that position in 2008, when permission was due to be sought that October, we had artistic impressions in the paper, grand statements from the regeneration bods about what the development was to contain, it’s all gone quiet. Tesco (or their agents) still only have a ‘screening opinion’ lodged for planning on the Walsall Planning website, not even seeking outline permission. The screening opinion application (it’s just a fishing expedition, in planning terms, a kind of expression of intent to do something) is under reference 08/1860/ND and a supporting document (.pdf file, Adobe Reader required) can be found here. I never questioned that Tesco would have to enter the planning process, but I wouldn’t imagine they’ll meet any more than token resistance from a council never afraid to warmly welcome big business and it’s cold, hard cash. I’m sure that however unpalatable the application may be, it’ll be sweetened be investment elsewhere, just like the current shenanigans in central Walsall.

The idea of prior consultation is mooted here, and I’m sorry, but as a resident of Brownhills I’ve never actually seen a leaflet or been asked about any transport plan, and neither have a straw poll of four other residents of the town. The instore demo was also a bit of a joke – why was it so limited in time-span and announced so late? So few people saw it that it was practically meaningless. Combined with the misleading models displayed for a while in the Parkview centre, it’s almost as if someone wants half understood ideas of what’s to come held by the town. Surely not.

The transport plan is a red herring, and as anyone who’s lived in Brownhills for a decade or so will know, these things ebb and flow like continental drift. Who remembers the bypass across the Spot projected in the seventies and eighties? That garnered such credibility it was even drawn in A-Z atlases of the time as ‘Brownhills Bypass – proposed’ – this was later replaced by a projected link road from the new estate on the former meadow to the new estate in Clayhanger, involving a new canal bridge nobody was prepared to fund. Later, we had the frankly laughable eastern bypass project – from the A5 to the Chester Road near Stonnall. As expected, Staffordshire County Council objected strongly to the building of a road to benefit Walsall Council’s transport agenda that almost totally ran in Staffordshire; the project rightly died, to nobody’s surprise whatsoever. With a probable spending squeeze in future years and only the vaguest commitments on the table, I bet that dies, too.

I wonder what Anon has against one way systems? There seems to be a lot of bitterness there – do you want to talk about it? We’re all friends here; better out than in and all that.

My comment on Ravens Court stands. If Walsall Council had any intention of doing something with it, they’d stun the owners with a large sum of money. That’s what they’re waiting for. ‘Twas ever thus. As a last resort, it could fall under a compulsory purchase order, but that would involve actually having a plan for something. I don’t hold out much hope on that score.

Finally, I’m not enamoured with the exhortations to be patient and less cynical. To be skilfully patronising is a precise art, and Anon clearly isn’t above entry level; having lived in this town as long as I have, I’ve heard all this shit before, many times. For all the corporate planning and development speak, the town is still full of empty shops, charity emporia, fast food pedlars and tango parlours, all punctuated by crumbling infrastructure, bad paving, weeds and litter. We need action sooner rather than later, in the form of decent street cleansing, smartening and repairing. We need to encourage business to come here, and then entice the punters into a clean, safe and pleasant environment. This is nuts and bolts stuff, not grand design, and we can’t even do that.

[Edited on the 24th August 2009 at the request of Anon: information that could identify them has been removed]

If Anon is reading this, I welcome and value your response – it’s good to have a debate and I’m interested in engaging with you about Brownhills and it’s future. It is hard, however, to take your authoritative tone at any more than face value unless you decloak.

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4 Comments

  • I get all the comments in the same way that I get all the top-level posts: I’ve ‘subscribed’ to them through RSS. 🙂

    PS – Got talking to Nan again the other day, and managed to record some stuff. Now just awaiting enough clear headspace to be able to edit and/or transcribe so I can send it to you.

     
    Reply
  • As usual I’ll read back through this and might have further comments, but surely using Silver St instead of High St as the through route will just shift the problems to Silver St?

    To my mind the one way idea makes more sense- if it’s still the one with High St in one direction, Silver St in another. The racetrack problem could be mitigated by using a control (traffic lights?) to stop traffic endlessly going around the one way without stopping.

    The Darlaston comment has a chilling ring of truth to it :-(.

     
    Reply
  • Anon

    Ok Bob, you have me sussed.

    [Edited by BrownhillsBob on 24th August 2009 to remove identifying information at the request of Anon]

    Simply, I too would like to see something happen in Brownhills.

    [Edited by BrownhillsBob on 24th August 2009 to remove identifying information at the request of Anon]

    Its also to respond to some of the misunderstanding and cynicism that exists, to set the record straight so to speak.

    I’m sorry if you didn’t receive a leaflet.

    [Edited by BrownhillsBob on 24th August 2009 to remove identifying information at the request of Anon]

    A new round of consultation may be held when an application is eventually submitted, but the scheme is still under review and waiting for the relevant person(s) at Tesco to push the “Go” button.
    My issue with one way systems is that they encrouage drivers to speed between junctions and not look out for pedestrians. Tesco and the other shops nearby would become an island site, seperated from the rest of the town. I think it would make Brownhills even more soul-less than it alreay is, but as I said, these are my personal opinions.
    When Staffs objected to the bypass (itself another dumb idea) it killed off the other two previous Brownhills transport schemes – pedestrianising the High Street and the Clay Hanger link road (yet another dumb idea) as they both depended on it.
    The new scheme (town centre one way system or Silver Street two way) will be funded by the Red Route programme, so if you’re looking for a new rant topic, try that !
    Finally, with regard to Ravens Court – why waste a couple of million squid buying something that’s worth about 50p ? I agree with you though, if the owners won’t play ball the Council should simply CPO it ! As you said , it requires a plan of what it should be replaced by and some money to build it.
    Hope that sets the record straight.

     
    Reply
  1. Under developed? « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  August 19, 2009

    […] the post Brownhills Tesco development – wheel fallen off? and subject of my post of last week, ‘Everyone act normal – they’re watching!’ sought to redress my criticism by contributing a lengthy, welcome comment on the latter post. […]

     

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