Whilst mooching back from work today, I noticed a planning application tied to a lamppost in Silver Street, Brownhills. Reading it, I note it’s for a new Tesco development in Brownhills town centre. I haven’t had time to go through it in detail yet – the application (reference 10/0375/FL) was submitted on the 31st March 2010, and is listed as being valid from 21st April 2010. The site notice I observed was dated the 27th April. This must all come as a bit of a surprise to Walsall Council, who are acting like no design or application has been finalised.
The proposal – which will indeed come as a shock to some, including the self-basting member for regeneration, Councillor Adrian Andrew – involves the complete demolition of Ravens Court (bit of a waste of new cladding there), the Senior Citizens centre and existing store, which will largely be replaced by car parking. Only three new shop units will apparently be built on the High Street, with a small area marked as ‘public realm’ which is noted could possibly hold a relocated market. This space is the fenced-off wasteland that currently languishes unloved next to Kwik-Fit. All this is a bit different to the development previously consulted on back in 2008, where there was lofty talk of a store on stilts, atria and housing. Note that the shabby southern arm of Ravens Court, housing Downes Newsagents and Greggs, would remain.
I’ll go into this in more detail over the weekend, when I’ve had chance to peruse the plans thoroughly, but this is the future for Brownhills. Walsall Council are broke, have no plan, and will welcome the Tesco dollar with open arms. As can be seen from recent articles emanating from the throbbing hive-mind of WMBC’s press office, Adrian Andrew clearly doesn’t have a clue about our town, as the mess that was the demise and doomed rebirth of the market show. Recently, he laughingly claimed the town to be ‘Vibrant’, which surely indicates that he doesn’t attempt to shop here regularly. Like it or not, this is what will be built, and expect the council to just roll over an accept what their retail masters demand.
I’m intrigued as to the municipal silence about this significant plan for Brownhills. Normally, Walsall would be shouting this kind of thing from the rooftops. It’s certainly a potentially problematic issue – the two Tory and One Labour councillors in the town may well come under pressure, particularly Labour member Barbara Cassidy who is vehement in her defence of the residents of the new ‘Luxury David Wilson housing development’. She campaigned vociferously against the proposed leisure development off Silver Street – whose site still remains empty – even though it was promised to the town in return for allowing the Watermead Estate to be built. Quite what the luxury residents will make of the prospect of several years of noisy, dirty reconstruction, resulting in being overshadowed by a huge new Tesco Extra, remains to be seen. I suspect prescriptions for blood pressure medication will increase significantly in the area, mainly to the political classes.
I expect that the council are holding back until after the election. It’s now quite clear – against my previous feelings – that the market was euthanised for Tesco (the YamYam was right about that), and the retail conglomerate clearly didn’t deliver as anticipated, leaving the council in a tight corner. It certainly makes the announcement from Adrian Andrew, via a press release last June, that ‘…there is categorically no link between Brownhills market and the Tesco development.’ look mendacious and not a little economical with the actualité. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, but don’t expect anything quickly. This will take two years or more, and we’re in for interesting times.
The following links connect to documentation supplied with the Tesco application, available to the public from Walsall Council’s ‘Planning Interactive’ site. They’re all .PDF files, so you’ll need Adobe Reader.Application Forms Design And Access Statement Existing And Proposed Site Sections Location Plan Planning And Retail Statement Proposed Elevations Proposed Roof Plan Proposed Site Plan Proposed Store Plan Statement of Community Involvement Transport Assessment