A Birmingham MP is urging the city council to spend the £20 million it is set to lend Warwickshire County Cricket Club on improving housing instead.
Lynne Jones (Lab, Selly Oak) is demanding to know why “commercial” redevelopment of Edgbaston should be financed out of the public purse. She has also called for detailed studies on the amount of additional traffic on local roads if the club’s expansion plans are approved. Her intervention is the latest blow to WCCC’s proposal for new stands, floodlighting, pavilion, media centre and hospitality suites as well as housing, flats, hotels and offices on land fronting Pershore Road.
The council’s planning committee refused to approve the scheme, describing it as over-intensive development, while a scrutiny committee ordered the cabinet to think again about lending the club £20m. A risk assessment report by financial consultants Deloitte warned that the club had over-estimated the amount of money it could make from Test matches and one-day internationals following the ground improvements.
In a letter to cabinet regeneration member Neville Summerfield, Ms Jones said: “I would suggest that if Birmingham City Council has the sum of £20 million available........ serious consideration should be given to spending the money on council housing, for which, I am sure you will be aware, there remains a heavy demand in the city that persistently fails to be met by the available supply.
“I do not know the grounds upon which the council is considering making this loan, as I had understood that this was a commercial development. However, if the council considers that Warwickshire County Cricket Club requires public money to fund its future plans, then I seek your assurance that this will be considered alongside other calls on public funding.”
Ms Jones said concern about the scale of the club’s proposed development was running high among her constituents. A public meeting organised by the planning committee saw 29 out of 31 speakers criticise the scheme. Ms Jones added: “I am particularly concerned as the roads from which residents have contacted me to express their concern include Willows Crescent, Willows Road, Harbury Road, Russell Road, Moor Green Lane and Amesbury Road.”
A council spokesman described Warwickshire County Cricket Club as a “jewel in Birmingham’s crown”.
He said there was a significant risk that international cricket would no longer be staged at Edgbaston if the city council failed to support the club.
The spokesman added: “The proposed loan is dependent on planning permission being granted.
“It would be secured against the assets of Warwickshire Cricket Club and therefore paid back in its entirety, plus interest.
“It would be unlawful to support borrowings to finance improvements to housing. However, housing is a priority to us and Birmingham City Council is investing £134 million on council properties this year.”