The plans for Selly Oak regeneration, including a new Supermarket, were unveiled last month as part of the next phase of the new road and hospital developments. With the regeneration of the canal seemingly dropped from the scheme, these new plans make for another sorry chapter in a rather sorry story. 

The whole situation has often smacked of a comedy of errors or even a Birmingham version of ‘An enemy of the people’. In this comedy there was even a self publicist Dr Michael, Chief Executive of the hospital. Dr Michael with the University and the supermarket, amounted to the ‘big players’ saving Selly Oak from poverty and mass unemployment. (I thought two out of the three ‘players’ are directly paid to look after health and education.)

A few years ago, together with the highway experts at the council, these players defined Selly Oak’s “problem” as an undeveloped chunk of land through which a brook idly ran and a smoking mound where various ‘nasties’ had been dumped. The land offered an opportunity to re-route the A38 Birmingham to Longbridge route, so long as money could be raised to chomp through an embankment carrying the canal and the railway.

One benefit of the scheme was to give motorists a view of the strenuous exercise taking place on the University’s sports pitches. A secondary benefit arose from land being released so that the biggest supermarket in the West Midlands conurbation could be built.

The road scheme was not popular and plans for it were constantly submitted, withdrawn, rebranded, resubmitted, with its name lurching between relief, access, and regeneration. Each time a resubmission was made, any comment or objection had to be sent in afresh. After approval the supermarket found it could not pay its share of the road scheme because of the downturn in the economy. Lucky then that the (now disbanded) West Midlands Regional Assembly put its hand in our pockets for the balance, and averted disaster. 

Finally with the go-ahead and funding in place (including from the Local Transport Plan) the digger engines revved up. So now, we have the road, jobs have been saved and all is well. The mound still smokes and on a still night settles in the valley. This road includes a new bridge as the road crosses the line of a disused canal (Lapal Canal Trust) that runs from Selly Oak to California and then through the hill to Halesowen.

The bridge was in the plans as part of the canal revival that appeased many and reduced the protest against the road. With the canal revival, a waterside walk, flats and offices overlooking boating and waterfowl, would give individual character to an otherwise ordinary development.

However according to the new plans, the new scheme drops the canal idea, keeps the car park, and has the new shop an unfeasibly long distance from the bus stops. The only positive development from the whole sorry scheme seemingly vanished.  You can see the plans here and hopefully comment. Are they doing the right thing ? You decide!