Chelmsley Wood green space set to vanish as homes plan forges ahead

Concerns that a precious meadow on residents’ doorsteps is to disappear under plans for up to 200 homes has led to fresh calls for a rethink.

Firm proposals to build the estate on the old Simon Digby site, in Chelmsley Wood, are starting to take shape – several years since the scheme was first floated.

Objectors say the development will see locals lose a valuable green space between the M6 and Chester Road.

Read more:Badger bother at top Solihull school’s sports field

But the council has argued the site offers a real opportunity to boost housing in an area where new dwellings are sorely needed.

Sue Farmer, aged 71, is among those whose homes back onto the area earmarked for building work and is set to see the view from her balcony window change forever.

She branded the plans on the table “absolutely disgusting” and feared the authorities were trying to play down exactly what was on the table.

A view out towards the meadow – earmarked for hundreds of new homes – from Sue Farmer’s balcony.

“It should not be called the Simon Digby school site,” she said, arguing the label gave the impression of unattractive brownfield.

“The area they are proposing to develop is and has always been a meadow called Cole Meadow, which is situated along the River Cole.”

Ms Farmer, a retired bookkeeper, was born on Chester Road and can remember walking through the now vanished woodland which gave Chelmsley Wood its name.

She fears that the remaining open spaces – important to so many locals in one of the borough’s most densely populated areas – are being chipped away.

In fact part of the appeal of the newly-built home she moved into 15 years ago, having previously lived in Smith’s Wood, was the green expanse to the rear.

“I bought this property primarily for my old age or older age and I can see it being eroded like nobody’s business.”

She also cited concerns that £3 million of public money was being sunk into plans for an access road to make the estate possible and feared the scores of new houses would add to traffic and access issues on surrounding street.

“It’s already a nightmare,” she said, referencing highways issues around the housing built by property developer Persimmon back in the noughties.

A view of the site from the gate off Kitegreen Close, Chelmsley Wood - a new-build estate dating from the mid-noughties.
A view of the site from the gate off Kitegreen Close, Chelmsley Wood – part of a new-build estate dating from the mid-noughties.

Solihull Green Party is concerned by the impact of the plans being put forward and has been pushing for greater use to be made of areas available in Chelmsley town centre.

Ward councillor Shesh Sheshabhatter said: “Local residents do need more affordable housing, no doubt about that [but the problem] is delivering that and not losing green space.

“People don’t want to lose green spaces, that’s the bottom line.”

The opposition party has also voiced unease about ploughing a sizeable sum of taxpayers’ cash into highways works which will ultimately benefit a private developer.

The funding secured from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) was outlined in a report which went to Solihull Council’s cabinet last month.

The concept masterplan for the SImon Digby site was included in papers discussed by senior Solihull councillors this week.
The concept masterplan for the SImon Digby site was included in papers discussed by senior Solihull councillors last month.

It is seen as a way to make progress at a site which was identified for development back in 2013 but has not seen much movement in the eight years since.

Cllr Ian Courts, leader of the Conservative-run council, told last month’s meeting that the project made it possible to deliver homes where they were needed.

“If you lose one site where do you replace it?

“How many council meetings do we keep being asked about affordable and social housing? How many? Every single one.

“And here we have an opportunity … you’re talking about a lot of affordable homes.”

The council is still working on a business case and in July published a concept masterplan, which gives an early idea of the sort of layout which may be considered.

Although a more detailed blueprint would need to go through a formal planning application process at a later date.

A public consultation is set to get underway soon, with dates to be announced.

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