|Friends of the Earth Birmingham
Action Briefing Feb 98/Mar 98
As you may know last year the City council produced a draft transport strategy called 'Visions' (not to be confused with FOE's 'Visions!' -Ed). There are plenty of good intentions contained within this document with the pedestrian at the top of the hierarchy and the car borne commuter at the bottom. This we applaud wholeheartedly. There are some policies with which we have major problems: specifically an enthusiastic support for the continuing growth in destructive air travel and major road developments along the Bristol Road.
The Bristol Road has seen road 'improvements' blight both Selly Oak and Northfield for decades. This in combination with major dualing and tripling of lanes has made these two important suburbs the pinch points on this busy, fast and dangerous road. The current Sainbury's junction at Selly Oak is a superb example of a hierarchy which placed the pedestrian well at the bottom of transport planning.
In the early 1990's the City Council produced draft Local Action Plans for both Selly Oak and Northfield. The purpose of the Local Action Plan was to produce a document in participation with residents, traders, customers and the local authority which details the shared vision for an area. This would then be used to secure money to enact the plan. In both of these action plans relief roads were devised to take the through traffic out of the village centres and 'improve the environment within'. The Northfield Relief Road received a lot of support locally with only six registered objectors, one of whom was Birmingham FOE. The Selly Oak Relief Road proved to be far more controversial with plenty of local objectors including ourselves.
We have now reached 1998 and as yet we have still not received the results of the consultation into the Local Action Plans. However on the ground things have indeed changed dramatically. In Selly Oak the proposed merger of the hospitals could see the open space of the Battery Park built upon while Sainsbury's, after there planning disaster of the 70's, want to move lock stock and barrel to the site of the Birmingham Battery factory which has recently closed. The council has indicated that there will be no development without a road.
The recent developments have spurred one of the objectors, Birmingham University, into action. A run of 10,000 postcards has been produced helping people to object to the road and its inclusion in Visions and the Students Guild are actively campaigning against the loss of sports facilities and increased danger to pedestrians that the proposed road will create around the campus. Meanwhile in Northfield, Sainsbury's are planning to open a store on the City Council depot on Frankly Beeches Road. Again this development could help to finance the relief road. So, with the government increasingly saying no to money for new roads, more innovative methods of solving our transport and financial worries come forward. This is worrying in that not only do we have poor strategic planning in our transport spending BUT more importantly we have road building financed by traffic generators such as supermarkets.
Yes the Grosvenor shopping centre might be cramped but it is a major draw to Northfield. Will Sainsbury's stay in the Grosvenor if they build a new super dooper shop just down the road???
All in all interesting times for the Bristol Road, watch this space and get involved. Contact FOE reception for more details.