Residents will be aware through leaflets delivered through doors of the consultation relating to the potential development on Blythe Valley Park. The area lies within the Cheswick Green Parish Council boundary.
Construction of Blythe Valley Park started in 1998, with the first building occupied in 2000. Following the initial development of Phase 1 (Blythe 1) of the Park, outline planning consent was granted for Phase 2 (Blythe 2) in 2006. This consented a further 800,000 sq ft (75,000 sq m) of office development and the extension of the Countryside Park.
The take-up of office space by large companies seemed to stall even before the financial crash of 2005/6 and the present owners, IM Properties, and previous owners looked to develop the site to create mixed use development; bringing homes and offices to complement each other. As the owners website states ‘The employment land is surrounded by a Countryside Park providing an excellent habitat for wildlife and a quality recreational resource. However, it is acknowledged that, the area currently lacks vibrancy and activity outside the working day’.
Solihull Council identified some of the area within the business park for development in its Local Development Pan (LDP), which was adopted in December 2013. The plan, as we know, included the development on Mount Dairy Farm, totaling 11,500 new homes in the borough up to 2028. The LDP seeks to “reinvigorate the park by helping support a broader range of on-site facilities, supporting the vitality of the park and accelerating job delivery”.
WHAT IS BEING PROPOSED?
The consultation document shows as its key features:
Up to 750 new homes, with a mix of housing types including affordable housing
- An extra care facility diversifying the type of elderly care available locally
- New employment space
- A local centre bringing residential, community and employment uses together
- A new 200 bedroom hotel
It is important to note that this is a consultation but I expect a formal planning application to be made, probably sometime this summer. Any planning application will formalise what is being proposed and, in the first instance will almost certainly be for ‘Outline Planning Permission’ with full details to be submitted for consideration at a later date.
MY INITIAL THOUGHTS?
I do welcome the opportunity for consultation because this has been on-going for a while and many residents may remember the consultation a year or so back when the previous owners sought to do something similar. This time it appears the new owners (IM Properties took possession in December 2014) wish to interact more and have delivered the leaflets and arranged consultation days with residents and the parish council. A copy of the consultation leaflet is shown here: IMPQ3001 – Blythe Valley Park public exhibition publicity leaflet (print spec)
The exact numbers are not a massive concern to me. The LDP did identify some 600 new houses but I believe it is the nature of the place that is important, not an extra 150 houses on this large site. I welcome the identification of affordable housing and the development of a care home facility.
WHAT DO I FEEL IMPORTANT?
The inter-relationship with the main Village is essential and Cheswick Village itself must not be compromised with reduced services because new ones may be provided at this new location: any new provision of services, such a health and transport must compliment what is already within the Village. I will go into a bit more detail further on.
Transportation: Access and egress of the Business Park needs to be examined to ensure current users and new occupants do not overload the area by the traffic island at the M42/A34 junction.
Public Transport: I would look for development of improved bus services to and from Blythe Valley Park to Solihull and elsewhere, but more importantly help to create a far better and more efficient provision to service Cheswick Green Village.
Schools: An important point because many schools in the area are near capacity, albeit with a certain percentage from non-Solihull School pupils. Schools in Solihull attract children resident in neighbouring authorities. At September 2014 14% of all pupils in our primary schools were resident outside of Solihull, this rises to 33% in Secondary schools. (The School Organisation Plan (2014) can be read via this link: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s16436/Appendix%20A.pdf . : Pages 10 and 11 of the Plan show growth expectation in the Shirley area).
It is absolutely vital that attention is given to the designation of catchment area(s) for school children that will reside in Blythe Valley Park. They deserve to know what schools they may apply for but it is also essential that residents of the existing Village are protected in their choice if the village school at Cheswick Green is their preferred choice.
Health: Evidence appears to show the existing medical practice in the village is at, or near to, capacity. The new development at Mount Dairy Farm will add to these pressures. I know the existing practice would like to extend its range of services but there does not appear to be the identified space for them to do so in the village itself. There then poses a need for suitable facilities for people who will live on this sizeable new development at Blythe Valley Park. Here it may be possible to establish the sort of service the existing medical practice is seeking to provide. However, it is essential such services/provision is complementary to that existing in the village itself. Existing residents should not be expected to travel to a new practice because this new one meant the closure of the existing one. It could be that some form of joint commissioning, with consultation with the existing medical practice, parish council and residents takes place to identify what is needed. The existing medical practice provision should not be compromised. There is though a clear opportunity to provide much needed additional services for existing residents that would surely not happen without the opportunities from this nearby development through Section 106 funding.
THE ENVIRONMENT: It is essential that whilst the needs of the new residents of Blythe Valley Park is accounted for (or else why would they move there) but measures can be taken to ensure both communities complement each other. Provision of play facilities, for use by both communities would be great – to include provision for the older children as well.
By thoughtful provision of services, much that will address requests from existing residents, an ‘Us and Them’ scenario will be avoided. Here, the leadership of the fine Cheswick Green Parish Council will be beneficial. Is there a call for a public footpath/cycle path between the two communities?
Issues should also be taken to compliment the super country park in Blythe Valley and I would seek to know how the developers will add to its quality.
Sorry for the length of this piece but I feel the issue is deserving of my full attention. We have the chance to shape what is going to happen on our doorstep and we should take this. As I stated at the recent Cheswick Green Parish Council meeting ‘we should not have a shopping list of things we want from this development; we should have a shopping trolley full’.
Additional information post-website publication:
Many thanks to resident Jayne L Plain, who has highlighted the lack of reference to the unmet promises made to the residents of Illshaw Heath by previous owners of Blythe Valley Park. It is important that, as very close neighbours, their concerns are addressed, especially the provision of better utility services for houses in this area.
FURTHER INFORMATION – and internet links:
Blythe Valley Park – Master Plan: http://www.blythevalleypark.co.uk/masterplan/masterplan-consultation/
News report on the Business Park: IM Properties purchasing Blythe Valley Park in Jan 2015: http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/commercial-property/im-properties-buys-blythe-valley-8397991
FURTHER CONSULATION OPPORTUNITIES:
Briefing presentation for Cheswick Green Parish Council (Monday 25th, 12.30pm to 1.30pm, Blythe Valley Park)
Briefing presentation for those living closest to the site on Kineton Lane and Illshaw Heath Road (Tuesday 26th, 6.30pm to 8.30pm, Cornwall House, Blythe Valley Park)
A ‘drop in’ exhibition event for employees of the occupiers of the Park (12pm to 2pm, Blythe Valley Park)
A public exhibition on the proposals for those living in the vicinity of the site Thursday 28 January (4pm to 8pm, Cheswick Green Village Hall).
I hope this War and Peace post is useful to you. I doubt that I have covered everything in this short time but I hope to assure you of my great interest and opportunity to outline my ‘initial’ thoughts on the consultation.
Please do not hesitate to comment or contact me.