Wednesday January 20 2021



In Full . . .


Posted on October 25 2014 at 4:19:15

Less than a year ago, this column gave itself over to supporting Alvechurch Parish Council in its fight against plans for 22 houses on a field in Hopwood.

The site was strewn with rubble, it sat next to a noisy roundabout used daily by thousands of cars going to and from the M42 and it had existing permission for use as storage for machinery.

The parish was aghast that the then leader of Bromsgrove District Council, Roger Hollingworth, had backed the plans and the planning committee had decided to consider them, rather than rejecting them out of hand – because the land was in the Green Belt.

We, too, could not believe that this could have happened and our news headline wondered if the Green Belt could be “holed at Hopwood”.

This column feared “it would shatter a protection that has been keeping bulldozers off our countryside since 1935”.

The plans were rejected – because the land is in the Green Belt.

So, what has changed over the past 10 months that would lead our “grass roots” representatives to think the Green Belt can be sacrificed – even in a tranquil spot next to a cricket field, adjoining a public park beside the tree-lined River Arrow?

There is no doubt it could be an attractive development, although by no means would the apartments be the “affordable homes” that might warrant even a sniff of being allowed on Green Belt land.

The developer’s website is currently marketing two-bedroom apartments in Shirley at around £310,000 and in Knowle at £374,950-£484,950.

Perhaps the possible fulfilment of long-held dreams of creating a “sports hub” around the cricket club with parking and changing facilities and the chance of vehicle access to The Meadows, was enough to divert our representatives’ attention from the principle at stake.

We have even seen the expression “there are 50 shades of Green Belt” used when rationalising the parish’s support for building on it.

But, in reality, there is just one shade: there is just the one Green Belt and if it is holed beside the Arrow, with the approval of the parish council, there will be no defence when the next developer comes along.

* Without wishing to appear churlish, news that St Laurence Church in Alvechurch is appealing for help to save some of its historic stained glass windows comes as little surprise.

While we hope these works of art can be kept in place, the church was warned repeatedly a decade ago that its finances would not be able to bear the long-term cost of the Ark project.

So now the group of volunteers trying gamely to run the large enterprise that is the local church are asking villagers to chip in.

Perhaps the Diocese of Worcester will dip into its coffers, too? Interest on the £262,000 it received from St Laurence from the £1.4 million Black Paddock proceeds should more than pay for the repairs to the windows.

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