As some of you will know, I’ve been a bit busy with work and other preoccupations recently, and keeping up with stuff on the blog has been quite a challenge, not least because current events in the local area right now seem to be developing a curious life all of their own…
A good example is the protracted saga of Ravens Court, the derelict shopping precinct in the centre of Brownhills. Once the target of a potential purchase and demolition for a new Tesco store, Tesco unexpectedly pulled out, and now we’re left to deal with the mess the retail giant left behind.
Recently, the issue has come to the fore again, as I featured just over a week ago on April 18th 2014 – Walsall Council, after pressure from Brownhills Labour Councillor Steve Wade and others – issued a 215 notice, forcing the owners to clean Ravens Court of rubbish and secure it or face fines.
At the time of writing, I hadn’t seen the printed edition, and picked up on the story from the Advertiser website. When I saw the inky copy, it contained the following, somewhat curious letter from local lady and community stalwart, Vivienne Aston.
Help me save the high street
I AM starting a petition with the hope that a thousand-plus Brownhills residents will sign in support of a request to the council to compulsory purchase Ravenscourt Shopping area.
This collection of mostly empty shops has been a concern to residents for quite some time.
Compulsory purchase is an option which would lead to regeneration.
This in turn would transform the appearance of the High Street and make Brownhills a shopping destination for shoppers from outside the area.
At face value, this seems reasonable – a petition for compulsory purchase. Then I thought about it. Why now? What could be possibly be the sudden motivation? Where would the council get the considerable sum of money – I mentally estimated about £2 million -and what was the authority supposed to do with Ravens Court when purchased? How would this lead to ‘Regeneration’?
Then I twigged; what Vivienne doesn’t mention in her billet-doux is that she’s standing as a candidate for election in the upcoming council elections, taking place on 22d May 2014. Vivienne is standing as a Conservative, contesting the position currently held by Dave Turner, also a Tory.
I’d wager that as a Conservative in favour of public spending cuts, Vivienne knows well that Walsall Council isn’t in any kind of position to issue a compulsory purchase order, but would like to appear proactive on the matter. After all, who can blame her for that?
If only Vivienne knew any of the people in control of the council who could enlighten her on the current financial reality of her proposition…
I didn’t get time to write about this and my feelings thereupon last week. As it turns out, I’m glad I didn’t, as this weeks Advertiser contained an absolutely belting reply from local campaigner John Bird.
Petition idea is really old news
MAY I reply to the recent letter by Vivienne Aston in the Walsall Advertiser of April 17, 2014, regarding organising a petition to sort out the shambles that is Ravenscourt Precinct in Brownhills High Street.
As she is a resident of Brownhills and I think, attends local planning and regeneration meetings, I would have thought that she would have been fully aware of the fact that a petition, which attracted many hundreds of signatures relating to the very same subject, was organised last year and handed in to the full council meeting in November. This prompted a number of meetings between council officers and the precinct owners and their agents.
While progress is slow, at least that particular petition has ‘got the ball rolling’ at last. I am afraid, Vivienne, that you have illustrated publicly, that you are out of touch with local issues in Brownhills.
Now let us take a closer look at your proposed solution, namely, for Walsall Council to take over the site using a Compulsory Purchase Order. Have you costed this out?
Because a conservative estimate would be in the region of three million pounds, a large sum of money for the taxpayers of Walsall to find for a site, which Councillor Adrian Andrew has said publicly, currently has no national retailer interest.
Given this fact, Vivienne, I am not sure what planet you arc living on as anyone can see that Walsall Council does not currently have the luxury of having that kind of money to hand to splash around.
In fact, enforced cuts will clearly make this next financial year an even more difficult one to administer-whoever is running Walsall Council.
I’ll state here and now that John Bird has written some excellent letters on this subject over the years, sadly, none of which I transcribed, and they don’t seem to be online any more (but references can be found in this post from 2009). I’ve always broadly agreed with him on this stuff, and the letter above is bloody wonderful, even if the predicament we’re in is thoroughly dire.
If by chance John Bird is reading this, I’d love him to get in touch, and I make the offer here and now that if he would like to write an article about the issue, I’d be happy to host it; the same invitation is, of course, extended to Vivienne or any other councillor, prospective councillor or community activist.
John’s letter explains clearly and plainly the situation, and we need more of that. I doff my hat to him, and have reproduced the exchange here as I feel it deserves wide exposure.
Comment here, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thank you.