I’ve been sent some very good news from the fight to save Brownhills Senior Citizens Centre, which as regulars will know has been threatened by the planned new Tesco development in the town. The well-loved and extensively used facility is pencilled in for demolition to make way for a small overflow car park for the new store, as a result of a peculiar land-swap deal between the retail behemoth and Walsall Council. It would appear that the authority, in their wisdom, had agreed to swap the site of the centre for a patch of wasteland no longer coveted by the developers, upon which a relaunched Brownhills Market market could apparently be sited, despite the plans for the new building leaving the existing marketplace undeveloped. As I pointed out previously, demolition of the centre seems little more than gratuitous, particularly when it’s hard to see what Tesco will be giving in return for remodelling our town in their image.
Thanks to stirling, dedicated and tireless work by both the users of the centre and local councillor Barbara Cassidy, there seems to be a bit of a rethink on the cards. A press release from the campaign follows:
Grey power winning club fight
Pensioners fighting to save their Brownhills’ centre from the bulldozer may have won their fight with Walsall council and the supermarket giant Tesco.
Members of the Brownhills Senior Citizens Club were told the news as they presented a 350 named petition to Labour party councillor, Barbara Cassidy, before Monday night’s full council meeting.
The OAPs got signatures from across the local community opposing a proposed land swap between the local authority and Tesco which is part of a proposed 88,587sq ft store with over 500 parking spaces.
Tesco had said the scheme required the pensioners’ council owned centre on Pier Street be transferred to them so it could be demolished.
Chairman of the club, John Dunn, said: “We met with the council last week and made suggestions about how our club could be saved. I am pleased to say that we have since been told that these have been accepted by the authority but until we see the revised planning applications we remain cautious and will continue to fight for the club.”
Cllr Cassidy who was asked by the pensioners to highlight their plight, said she was pleased the weight of publicity and public outrage had lead to the change of heart.
“I am delighted to say, following talks at Walsall Council, that it now seems that the centre does have a chance of being saved. I await confirmation from the Council that Brownhills Senior Citizens will remain in situ.”
”Since the local media published this story, the Brownhills Senior Citizens Club has had tremendous support from the people of Brownhills and Walsall Wood.
“This has forced Walsall’s Tory council to take them seriously and begin talks.”
Saying the club members had shown real grit, she added “Far from being intimidated by taking on the council and one of the country’s biggest companies these senior citizens have shown they know what they want and they are determined that no-one is going to walk all over them.
“But talk is cheap and what these people deserve is action and I will continue the fight until the centre is saved or they get a comparable new home for their club.”
I welcome this news, and also echo the note of caution. Walsall Council say lots of things, but the actuality is often different. With an authority that seems inexplicably eager to please Tesco, it remains to be seen if they will do the honourable thing for the community or just roll over as they have before. I fully support the club in it’s fight and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate it’s members and Councillor Cassidy, who has really fought on this one. Myself and Barbara don’t always see eye to eye, but on this one it seems like common sense may yet win the day. Well done to all concerned.
Remember, this whole deal isn’t over. Tesco still seem set to take up a huge swathe of Brownhills whilst apparently feeding little back into the community. This development will demolish Ravens Court and replace it with just three new units, effectively sealing Tesco off from the High Street, whilst removing the focus of the town. I would be the first to admit that the dilapidated shopping centre requires demolition, however I’m sure that better replacement solutions could be explored. I remain concerned as to why the town seems to be getting so little from the deal. Whatever happens, we’re unlikely to see a new store before 2013, in the meantime Brownhills remains in limbo, haemorrhaging trade and investment.
Stay tuned, folks, this is set to get quite interesting.