The day after announcing it needed to find £15 million savings, Solihull Council could find itself having to pay £500,000 to fight a planning appeal over a controversial town centre development.
The £80 million Parkgate proposals to redevelop Shirley have been rejected by the authority’s planning committee on the grounds of a lack of car parking facilities, which some members felt posed a threat to the suburb’s vitality.
The proposals for Parkgate, a partnership project between the council itself and developers Shirley Advance, included a new Asda superstore, shops and housing along the Stratford Road by Shirley Park.
But some members argued a planned 500-space basement car park would not provide enough parking facilities for visitors, meaning people could be put off visiting the town centre.
Conservative councillor Ken Allsopp, who had previously supported the scheme, was among those who voted against it. He stated he felt he had a “gun put to his head” over the threat of the council potentially having to pay costs if it rejected it.
The application was rejected in December on the same grounds, but was brought before the committee again with supplementary information explaining how transport consultants Arup had calculated the scheme’s parking provision.
Chief planning officer Gary Palmer warned the committee that in refusing the application again: “A cost application could be made against the council and I think we would be vulnerable to such an application.”
Councillor Stuart Davis (St Alphege) labelled the idea of rejecting the scheme “a disgrace”, stating: “This has taken us 21 years. There would be 800 jobs available here and 300 during the construction period.
“I’m quite convinced that if this goes to appeal we will lose hands down. Has anyone here tonight got half a million to spare?.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Glenis Slater (Elmdon) said: “800 jobs would be fantastic, but where would they park when they come to work?”
Shirley Advance spokesman Robert Birch confirmed the company had already lodged an appeal.