Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Perry Park closed

A couple of weeks ago developers moved on to Perry Park to build the extension to the Alexander Stadium, the new gymnastics training centre.

Unfortunately nobody knew they were coming and nobody thought to tell anybody they intended to fence off the entire north-west corner of the park. Although this is tucked away from the main park, it is the access point for residents from the Beeches Estate and from Perry Park Crescent, a green area where children can kick balls about.

We've now fixed a residents' meeting with the developers Thomas Vale next Monday July 9th at the Alexander Stadium at 7.30pm.

The extension was already controversial and was bitterly opposed last year. It nearly fell after we exposed a technical error that required the planning committee to reconsider it.

What's annoying is that as part of the re-consideration the council was required to come up with - and consult on - a community use strategy for the park and also long-term plans. Part of the objection was the piecemeal development of the stadium which was encroaching on this well-used area of greenery.

Unfortunately in the haste to erect the extension, the community side was forgotten. Problems for residents of Perry Park Crescent have been aggravated by demolition crews moving in to the neighbouring site, the old Cold Storage factory, which has permission to be converted to a nursing home. This conversion was welcome - as it gets rid of an eye-sore - although there is now a new application which needs scrutiny.

Ward councillor Ray Hassall is city cabinet member for leisure and is keen to stress the advantages of the work that will be done to enhance facilities, including the green space in the north-west corner. But locally we are back to the same old running problem - who exactly runs our parks?

Exactly the same problem as we've had in Perry Hall Park where we cannot find out who actually gave permission for it to be used as a base for checking all the taxi-metres in Birmingham and Solihull. Or who decides how many cricket pitches go in. There's confusion because it's partly the constituency office and partly leisure services. There's also confusion because maintenance is done by contract.

We're trying to encourage Friends of Parks groups to be set up. They have all sorts of rights and access to cash and the park warden is keen to encourage this. Maybe a group will come out of next week's meeting we've called. But it's not going to work if nobody takes responsibility for consulting them about closures and changes of use.

This question had to be deferred from last week's ward committee because of the flooding issue - but we're still out to find the answer!