Saturday, April 12, 2008

Speedway

The planning application amendments for the Speedway at Perry Barr were agreed by planning this week.

Residents living around the Speedway track were concerned that shifting some events to Sundays and Bank Holidays would cause disturbance on rest days.

There was as big a battle over this amendment as there was over the original application although, in fact, it won't mean additional races, just some changes of dates. However by the time it was submitted residents had experienced regular events - and quite a few did not like it, including Speedway's immediate neighbour, the City University.

However the real debate is likely to be later this year when Speedway puts in an application for permanent planning permission.

Coincidentally, Jon went round the area with the noise consultants employed by the Speedway on Wednesday night. One concession has been that the Speedway withdrew their request to cease noise monitoring and this was part of regular monitoring.

Jon says: "I learnt a lot from walking round the area during the race and getting information about what was happening at each moment.

"In terms of excessive noise, it peaked at about 85 decibels at the front of the City University. That's above industrial safety levels - although only very briefly. However you can see why the university is objecting so strongly.

"It was also notable that 100 yds away at the student flats quite a few windows were open. Up here the noise is dampened by the stadium and clearly the students aren' t too bothered by it.

"At Nash Square, where residents have suffered particularly, it is not excessively loud - but it is irritating. The noise is like that of a Spitfire diving and that happens 60 times during a match. It is almost certainly caused when the bikes come round a bend at one end of a track where there are no buildings shielding the square from the track.

"There was a similar noise at the Seventh Trap, at the back of Teddington Grove, but it was a little louder.

"I also went into the pits when the bikes were warming up and the noise was deafening. But the pits are sound-protected and the noise doesn't carry far so far as I can tell."

So where does this leave the Speedway?

It's pretty clear that buildings and sound-damping walls make a massive difference. During continuous racing the sound in each direction is intermittent, when the bikes go past gaps in the sound barriers.

So there's a good chance that a complete circle of sound barriers - including, for instance, more advertising hoardings to the south of the site - would make all the difference.

The Speedway say they will put them in if they get permanent planning permission - because that will justify the investment. But if they don't put them in now, and the university and some residents have some bad nights over the summer - especially if it's sunny and still - there will be a battle royal when they come up for renewal.

Jon will be writing to the Speedway reiterating his advice that they put extra sound barriers in now - to show they can work.

1 comment:

uk_martin said...

Undoubtedly there will be another battle when Permanent Planning Permission is applied for, and it will be interesting to see how the battle lines are drawn.

The main objectors are BCU (UCE / Birmingham Poly…call them what you will…) and no doubt that they will be the main organisers of the campaign against the application. No doubt the Vice Chancellor will get his secretary to pose as a local resident to get a residents action group together to organise petitions etc and maybe another 100-odd signatures will be presented in opposition to the plans. I wonder what new tricks will be up their sleeve this time though.

It was interesting to read Jon Hunt's account of the noise survey, over at the campus. Maybe Jon can elaborate on how the 85 decibels noise reading compared to the noise of Busses and Heavy Goods Vehicles accelerating along the Aldridge Road, especially when the lights at the Wellhead Lane Junction turn from Red to Green. I know the answer to this, else I wouldn't have asked the question, but hearing it from Jon would of course make the fact a little more "independent and unbiased".

Talking about Wellhead Lane, which is where my mother lives, it would have been interesting to have asked residents there about how they compare the sound of the Speedway to the racket produced by the University, until the early morning hours when the Students have their big parties there. If my mother had been interviewed, she'd have told it straight that the University are more of a noise nuisance than anything that they object to.

Interesting also that the students had their bedroom windows open, and weren't bothered by the noise. Predictable too. The only time that anyone ever asked the students what their views about speedway were, it was found that; firstly the University had not consulted the Guild of Students (Students Union) as to what their opinions were, and that if they had been asked, over 95% of them would have either looked forward to seeing speedway in Perry Barr, or not have minded about it. Hardly any students were found who objected. Despite this, the Vice Chancellor of the University claims to be speaking on behalf of everybody there. Oh, and does it matter that for two thirds of the Speedway Season, it's out-of-term time and NOBODY is actually there? And that is a particularly relevant point, especially in view of Jon's comments about the Uni probably having some "bad nights this summer".

The comparison of the noise to a Spitfire at Nash Square was interesting. The Police Helicopter was flying overhead in Perry Barr the other night, at gone 11pm. It was there for quite a while. I would have thought that this was a lot louder than the noise of speedway bikes, and it was certainly at a more unsociable hour. I wonder if it resulted in any complaints from Nash Square? Or was it simply accepted as part and parcel of life in Perry Barr in 2008?

I live adjoining to Teddington Grove (also mentioned) and have to say that from speaking to neighbours who are not speedway fans, that they hardly ever hear it, and it was a surprise to some of them that we are already deep into the 2008 season, so unaffected have they been. I can recall in 2006 when the first Planning Application was made, which I gather Jon and all other local Councilors together with our MP, Khalid Mahmood supported, that the Environmental Engineers predicted that over 86,000 people would be potentially affected by the noise of the speedway. How daft that projection now sounds, and how the reality is nowhere near the foretelling of the apocalypse that the objectors came up with. And to think that of the 86,000 "affected" people, only 100-odd voiced objections in the petition presented at the last Planning Application. And in a democracy, how poor the 100-odd number is compared to the thousands (of voters) who pay to watch the Speedway on a weekly basis.

I for one hope that speedway will become a permanent feature of the Perry Barr / Birmingham scene, and wish the application for Permanent Planning Permission well.