I’m pleased to note that despite the celebratory tones of a report in the Express & Star a couple of weeks ago, Walsall Council are reinforcing the hard line taken on the owners of the derelict eyesore in the middle of Brownhills, Ravens Court, with a strongly worded press release issued a couple of days ago.
I covered this recently (as I have been doing for five years) and the claims of UKIP Councillor for Brownhills, Steve Craddock who says he and former Tory Regeneration Leader Adrian Andrew facilitated some kind of deal with the owners of the precinct to submit a planning application for renovation or redevelopment ‘in the new year’.
To anyone who has been following this sorry saga, it seems reasonably clear that the owners would have made this promise anyway, in order to forestall legal action by Walsall Council, forcing them to clean Ravens Court up and secure it.
The powers the Council have to actually force action are very limited, but any gesture to coerce remediation is welcome.
I’d really like to invite Steve Craddock, Adrian Andrew or indeed, the site owners Lightquote (or their agents) to explain a few things, because I, and many others, are having difficulty understanding what’s actually happened.
My issues are as follows:
- The owners have had several years to submit an application – they haven’t. Why?
- Ravens Court has been allowed to fall into disrepair and degenerate into a state in which nobody would want to rent a unit there. Why?
- If the owners really care for Brownhills and the fabric of Ravens Court, why not do the minimum to clean it up and make it good? Why has there been no previous gesture to do this?
- Through the inaction, the local economy of Brownhills has suffered. There seems to be no intention to acknowledge this or recognise the effect the dithering is having on our community. Is the harm this situation is causing understood?
- Why let volunteers in the form of the Brownhills Town Centre Partnership and local traders beg for the resources to clean up a mess that belongs to you just so we can have a Christmas event? Wouldn’t a conscientious landlord have helped here?
I remain concerned about the future of Ravens Court, and if I or others with a semblance of critical thinking are to believe the vague promises made, I’d really like to see some valid commitment. The floor is open here as it always is.
You can comment here directly, or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
Please, meet us halfway. Talk to Brownhills properly and directly, not through a gatekeeper. Explain to us explicitly the delays, prevarication and inaction since Tesco called the party off. This may not matter to you – Brownhills is a tiny town miles from your head office in London – but the resolution of this mess is crucial to our future.
I look forward to a reply.
Walsall Council wrote:
Walsall Council could take action against the owners of the Ravenscourt Shopping Centre in Brownhills if plans for its redevelopment are not submitted in the next 6 months.
The local authority has set the deadline in a bid to press the owners into action, after concerns were raised over its dilapidated state.
More than 500 people have signed a petition calling on the local authority to compulsory purchase the site after swarms of traders vacated the precinct.
Tesco had plans to purchase the site and expand its superstore in the High Street, but shelved plans a couple of years ago. The centre has been in a state of disrepair ever since. Fly-tipping and graffiti are just some of the concerns raised by locals and traders.
Regeneration officers are in ongoing discussions with the owners of the precinct to bring forth plans for its redevelopment, but have confirmed their intentions to serve a section 215 notice in 6 months time should proposals stall.
Cabinet will be asked to support this recommendation on Wednesday evening, 17 December.
Councillor Mohammad Nazir, Walsall Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, said: ‘There is no proposed scheme at this stage and no imminent plans to demolish the centre. I will be recommending to my Cabinet colleagues that officers continue to work with the owners of Ravenscourt Shopping Centre in a bid to improve the appearance of the precinct but if that fails, we will adopt the planning committee resolution to carry out enforcement action.
‘It is in everybody’s interests that we find an achievable solution for the centre but we won’t allow the situation to continue indefinitely.
“The ball is firmly in the court of the owners. We have spelt out our intentions and so it’s now up to them to come forward with their proposals.’
A planning application will need to be submitted 6 months from the date of the Business, Employment and the Local Economy Scrutiny and Performance Panel on 24 November 2014.