Plans to flow two rivers through the new town set to be built on the former site of the MG Rover plant at Longbridge could cause pollution at a popular watersports spot and wildlife haven.
Bosses from Barnt Green Sailing Club told an inquiry into plans for the 2,000-home estate that they fear dirty water and chemicals being washed downstream along the River Arrow in to Upper Bittell Reservoir.
The 80-acre body of water is used by thousands of fishermen and sailors every year and is also regarded as one of the best bird-watching spots in the West Midlands. Developer St Modwen – which is behind the ambitious 15-year plans to create the £750 million residential and industrial site – pledged that it would work hard to make sure that the design of the river meant that the beauty spot was not contaminated.
Up to 10,000 jobs could be created at a business and science park. The project is expected to take 10 years to complete, but could be hampered by a slump in land and house prices, St Modwen has warned.
Gordon Britton from Barnt Waters Ltd, which manages Upper Bittell Reservoir, said: “Because of the way the River Arrow flows, we’re concerned it will be left to go stagnant for months and eventually wash in to the reservoir. The lake is stocked with trout which people fish and is home to a lot of wildlife so it needs to be kept clean.”
Mr Britton also warned that residents living on the estate would only see the river flowing for between three and six months of the year.
“The worry is that when it’s empty, all sorts of rubbish and things like oil cans will end up in there and get washed down,” he said. “We have members of a triathlon club swimming in the water and we are also a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.”
The river flows beneath the plant in underground culverts and drains water from the Lickey Hills before flowing to the River Avon.
John Beckett of the Environment Agency said it would be up to the landowners to make sure the river did not become contaminated.
“It’s desirable to have this river raised to the surface of the land and naturalised. It’s up to the developers to ensure it’s properly designed.”
Mike Murray from St Modwen said it was likely the parkland would become the ownership of a residents’ trust with charitable status.
“The river will create community interest and a focal point for the development,” said Mr Murray. “Certainly we do not believe that anything proposed within our scheme raises the risk of contaminating the water.”