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Parish Green Belt U-turn

Posted on October 25 2014 at 11:37:58

A proposed retirement complex close to the heart of Alvechurch has put the parish council in a spin over its Green Belt policy.

Councillors have “supported in principle” the ideas of apartment developer McCarthy & Stone for the site beside Alvechurch Cricket Club.

Yet the proposals entail building on land currently designated as Green Belt.

The parish council has previously defended robustly the Green Belt from any development, most recently last December when a planning application was submitted for a field in Hopwood.

That plan for 22 homes, supported by the then leader of Bromsgrove District Council, led Alvechurch Parish Council to complain: “The suggestion that the application be accepted is entirely against Bromsgrove District Council’s expressed policies . . . and only after a Green Belt review may sites in the Green Belt be considered for development”.

Yet the parish has given its provisional backing to McCarthy & Stone, which is running a public consultation into its ideas during November to get feedback before a planning application is made to Bromsgrove.

The parish itself looked at trying to acquire some of the land, which runs behind the vets’ in Birmingham Road, as part of its wider plans for sport and recreation in the village, hoping to create, in conjunction with the cricket club, car parking and changing facilities linked to improved football facilities at The Meadows.

The original discussions with McCarthy & Stone, after which the parish gave its backing “in principle”, are believed to have included vehicle access through the site to The Meadows.

A new plan, first shown to councillors at their October monthly meeting, does not include vehicle access, although there is a public footpath.

There are 14 public parking spaces near to Birmingham Road, which McCarthy & Stone suggests could be used by those playing football on The Meadows, as well as a new clubhouse for the cricket club, with sports changing facilities.

This plan also shows three bungalows and two houses on the adjoining site, currently home to Alvechurch Motors.

The parts of the development fronting Birmingham Road are not in the Green Belt, but the land behind, which runs alongside the cricket field and backs on to The Meadows, is wholly Green Belt. This is where the 36 one- and two-bedroom apartments would be built.

Oliver Luard, senior land buyer with McCarthy & Stone, told councillors that he recognised the “risk” in pursuing the idea of a development in the Green Belt, but he felt Alvechurch was an ideal place because of the transport links enabling family and friends to visit residents buying the apartments.

It would provide a facility for villagers because, in his experience, around 60 per cent of those buying McCarthy & Stone apartments came from within a three-mile radius of their new home.

Coun Catriona Savage said: “My mother lives in a McCarthy & Stone property and I think this would be a good opportunity for residents to be able to stay in the village and not go into a care home. And it would be an awful lot nicer than the garage.”

But Coun Adrian Smith said: “In Hopwood we were all saying ‘no development in the Green Belt’. You can’t support the Green Belt against one application and not for another.

“In principle, the first plan was good for the community. But in this plan, the cricket club has got a new clubhouse and McCarthy and Stone is getting five new houses.”

Parish chairman Andy Humphries, noting the plan had altered since the council gave its support in principle, said: “By November we should come to a conclusion of whether we still support it.

“A lot depends on the public consultation. But it could be that even the most perfect solution could be turned down by Bromsgrove District Council because it is Green Belt.”

McCarthy & Stone is holding a public exhibition of its ideas at Alvechurch and Hopwood Cricket Club, 6 Birmingham Road, on Thursday November 6. 

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