The Plastic Hippo

July 23, 2014

In the Ghetto

The Sims

The Sims

On a bright and sunny Walsall morning another little shady deal is born in the ghetto.

It does not require a genius to understand that there is a shortage of houses for people to live in. Building houses stimulates economic growth, creates jobs, increases local authority revenue and goes some way in alleviating overcrowding and homelessness. Only a complete and utter buffoon would hesitate in encouraging a building programme that would combat urban decay and regenerate dying communities. Fortunately we are blessed by the presence of Chancellor George Osborne. Understanding that demand exceeding supply is very good for profit, he is happy to allow the major players in the building industry to leave huge tracts of land that come complete with planning permission dormant in order to fuel a housing bubble. His bizarre help to buy scheme helps to buy time until the bubble bursts and the donations to the Conservative party from the major players in the building industry are safely in the bank not called Lehman Brothers.

Thankfully, here in the heart of England in the beautiful borough of Walsall, we have a more enlightened and creative approach to urban planning. Regardless of whatever takes place in the next 48 hours and beyond in terms of political control, our interesting methodology involving new build planning applications will continue to entertain.

Tuck away in a labyrinth worthy of Daedalus known as the Walsall council planning website, there resides a shy Minotaur answering to the name Planning Application 14/0927/FL. Follow Ariadne`s thread to the Walsall Planning website, search for applications and enter 14/0927/FL in the box. If you are lucky, you will find a proposal to build 14 dwellings that, if completed, will save Walsall from certain and absolute ruin. These dwelling are special; they are “aspirational”. They enjoy a bespoke design constructed with the finest materials and set within sumptuous landscaping. Served by excellent transport links and surrounded by excellent schools and other amenities they will occupy a site just minutes from the vibrant, bustling and culturally rich town centre of Walsall. Built on verdant agricultural Green Belt land, the “aspirational” five and six bed-roomed family homes with double and triple garages are just a champagne corks` trajectory from Walsall`s world famous Arboretum.

Click to access Site%20Plan%20-%20Aerial%20View.pdf

This nonsense is intended to attract “entrepreneurs” to Walsall in the hope that their AB wealth will trickle down to save the rest of us from penury. Please read the documents and view the CGI artists` impressions that seem oddly reminiscent of the old Sims computer game augmented by an image of magnificent and sturdy gates placed at the end of the existing Buchanan Road to keep the poor people out.

Click to access Site%20Entrance%20-%20Street%20Level%20Context.pdf

As far as planning strategies go, it is quite hilarious.

The Planning Statement issued by Metropolitan Estates and their agents CT Planning is a work of surreal genius. Quoting the Black Country Joint Core Strategy Policy HOU1 and Policy HOU2, the proposal generously offers to respond to the scandalous absence of “aspirational” housing in Walsall. It seems that the Black Country “suffers from a lack of housing choice, which limits its ability to attract more households in social groups A and B”. The proposal heroically offers a few people with a spare million lying around the choice between a five and six bed-roomed house and lots of other people the choice of sleeping in a doorway or up against the Arboretum fence.

Less amusing is the fact that when this claptrap is placed before the Planning Committee, it might actually be approved and allow property speculators to buy a piece of prime Green Belt with planning permission and sit on it until the time is right to make a killing. Consider the many brown field sites in Walsall lying fallow after suffering mysterious fires after being bought up by aspirational entrepreneurs. If Walsall needs a gated community toy town ghetto for the wealthy, how about bespoke dwellings on the BOAK site or the Jabez Clift site or amidst the ruins of Mellish Road Church? More importantly, how about affordable social housing for people that need it other than dodgy granny farms and apartments made of Lego at the strangely named Waterfront development next to a cheap hotel and a tacky new cinema? It seems only the rich can aspire to a view over the Arboretum.

Fortunately, the Walsall planning labyrinth allows us to support or object to the proposal to build next to the common amenity that is the Arboretum and even allows us to comment on this particular planning application. It seems that little time remains to do so and it is not certain if the views of the public are actually recorded and therefore considered. Failing that, you could try to contact the elected members of the Planning Committee to make your feelings known. The Head of Planning and Building Control at Walsall council seems to have already made up his mind. In the elegantly titled Notice 14/0411/SCOP, David Elsworthy tells the developer that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not considered necessary for a building project on Green Belt land adjoining Walsall`s “premier” green space.

On a bright and sunny Walsall morning another little shady deal is born in the ghetto.


  1. Is that on part of the old Grange golf course the council said was not affordable ??

    Comment by ianrobo — July 23, 2014 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

    • No, Calderfields Farm which is privately owned.

      Comment by theplastichippo — July 23, 2014 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

      • OK because this is the exact same issue as at Great Barr Hall isn’t it ? I presume you would be against that as well ?

        Comment by ianrobo — July 23, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

  2. For crying out loud. Why is a Walsall Councillor incapable of understanding basic geography, topography and planning processes? And so committed to displaying his ignorance?

    Great Barr Hall is an entirely different matter. To conflate the this with Calderfields is plain stupid. The former is a tragedy of huge proportion and loss. The latter just another example of chasing the cash through a war of attrition.

    The very least that that should be expected is that someone wakes up Pickles in time for a Planning Enquiry into Green Belt incursion.

    As the fat man is still sleeping, I guess that there is little hope.

    Comment by caldmorekitten — July 23, 2014 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

    • A different ianrobbo but the same old Realist. Wilfred Pickles died in 1978.

      Comment by theplastichippo — July 23, 2014 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  3. wished I was a councillor but I am not.

    But both use the same planning rules, both are green belt and both are involved in big value housing. For those living close by in the centre the same issue applies to those next to Great Barr.

    Actually I want a flexible system where each planning app is looked at for it;s own merits and not under one framework which is what happens now.

    Comment by ianrobo — July 23, 2014 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  4. Pained as I am to be seen to side with the tediously over loquacious one, the only similarity is that they’re both planning applications.

    Ian, that omelette could have been a soufflé with different ingredients.

    In my part of Walsall, communities are gated to keep the denizens inside…


    Comment by BrownhillsBob — July 23, 2014 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  5. A cynical application that will set a precedent; if granted it’ll never fly but a more realistic £££ scheme will follow

    Comment by medici2471 — July 23, 2014 @ 7:44 pm | Reply

  6. […] On that score, this ‘aspirational’ horseshit is being used a lot lately. The Plastic Hippo isn’t having any truck with it, either. […]

    Pingback by Aspirational my backside | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — August 10, 2014 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

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