A war of words over the future of a Birmingham shopping centre has heated up as the businessman accused of forcing residents to live “on a building site” defended himself.
Developer Jeremy Knight-Adams said he was trying to get a better deal for residents by opposing plans to redevelop the Swan Shopping Centre in Yardley, where retail giant Tesco hopes to build a new store.
His proposals would include additional shops, bars and restaurants, offices, community facilities, a hotel and offices or a medical centre. The scheme would create more jobs than Tesco’s plans, according to Mr Knight-Adams.
He has set up a website to put his case to the public – after MP John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) attacked him in the House of Commons.
Mr Hemming used Commons privilege, which means MPs cannot be sued for libel for comments they make in Parliament, to complain about “the spoiling tactics of a developer trying to ransom a plot of land”.
But Mr Knight-Adams said he was simply fighting to ensure local residents got “a high quality, mixed-use development that will provide a sense of community” instead of just a Tesco Extra.
The future of the site remains uncertain, despite the demolition of the 1960s shopping centre. Almost all that remains standing is a sheltered housing development for 188 residents, called Bakeman House.
Mr Knight-Adams, who owns some of the land, is opposing Birmingham City Council’s attempts to impose a compulsory purchase order, which would allow the supermarket giant to build a Tesco Extra store.
The Liberal Democrats published leaflets questioning the motives of a landowner who is opposing compulsory purchase. Although Mr Knight-Adams was not named, his lawyers argued it was clear the words must have been referring to him – and forced Mr Hemming to withdraw the leaflet and apologise.
However, Mr Hemming then raised the issue in the Commons, where he complained about “senior citizens who are in a vulnerable situation, who through the actions of one man, Mr Jeremy Knight-Adams, have to live in a building site.”
He also accused Mr Knight-Adams’ lawyers of trying to “intimidate” him into silence. Fellow MPs agreed to hold an inquiry into whether leading London law firm Withers had tried to silence him.
But Mr Knight-Adams insisted he was trying to get a better deal for Yardley. He said: “I have already offered my land to Tesco, provided it would commit to constructing an improved scheme, but Tesco has not to date taken up my offer.”