A huge £200 million revamp of West Bromwich town centre that promises 2,000 new jobs could be at risk because of bats, great crested newts and red start birds.
The plans, which include a new Tesco Extra along with a 70-bedroom hotel and petrol filling station, were before councillors at a planning committee meeting last night.
The superstore giant is behind the proposals, which would also see the realignment of the Town Centre Ringway, a new public square and 1,900 car parking spaces for town centre shoppers.
Jane McFarland, from Tesco’s regeneration subsidiary company Spendhall, told councillors the plans would put the town on a par with Birmingham.
High-street names like Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Next, HMV and Primark are understood to have been courted for a presence in the development.
She said: “Our scheme will deliver a step change for the fortunes of West Bromwich town centre, enabling it to compete with Birmingham.”
The local authority’s cabinet member for regeneration, Coun Bob Badham, also spoke in favour of the plans.
He said: “These will give West Bromwich the feel of a new identity far different to other shopping areas throughout the country.
“There is an emphasis on making the town a more friendly place, not only for cars, but also for people and cyclists.
“It’s the start of a new era for West Bromwich with a vibrant town centre. People will come here not just to do their shopping, but to enjoy the town and what it offers, like The Public and Dartmouth Park.”
However, before the committee voted on the proposals, the council’s planning development officer, Tony Rice, said the application couldn’t be fully decided. He said traffic and environment impact assessments had not been finished.
The environment assessment includes a survey from government advisers Natural England on the presence of bats, great crested newts and red starts on the 37-acre site.
“But we’re not anticipating any problems with them,” added Mr Rice.
But councillors voted to approve the plans subject to the documents being acceptable.
Coun Roger Horton said: “These proposals will be great for West Bromwich.
“The town won’t just be getting a shot in the arm, but a shot in the whole body and hopefully it will have a knock-on effect for the whole borough.” The first phase of the development, which won full planning permission last night, is expected to get under way by 2010, with the Tesco Extra supermarket, petrol station and majority of shops set for opening by autumn the following year. The second phase, with the hotel and further shops, was included in outline, but no start date for the work was given.