A scheme to transform an ailing Solihull town centre looks to be back on the cards as developers prepare to launch a new public consultation on the plans.
Developers are looking to submit a revised application for the “Parkgate” scheme in Shirley to council chiefs later this summer.
Although it contains several amendments, bringing the cost of the £100 million scheme down to about £80 million, including scrapping the creation of a temporary car park in Shirley Park during construction, the controversial use of green space appears to have remained unchanged.
The development was approved by Solihull Council in 2006 but was delayed after dozens of shops in Stratford Road appealed against Compulsory Purchase Orders.
A public inquiry in 2008 upheld the scheme and work had been due to begin at the end of 2008 before it was put on hold due to the recession. The approval since expired, meaning a revised scheme needed to be submitted.
The scaled-back plan has reduced the size of the Asda by ten per cent, replacing the first floor of the additional retail space with limited mezzanine space, and reduced the size of the basement car park. Residential units will now be a mixture of townhouses and apartments.
The green space to be developed takes up 1.35 acres of the 34-acre park, plus 1.2 acres which Solihull Council had originally bought to build on, which includes a ring of historic oaks that residents had fought to save.
Robert Birch, of developers Shirley Advance, said: “We decided there were some things we needed to change to ensure the scheme remained viable.
“It’s important for us to go back to the community and explain what those changes are to get their feedback. This scheme before the recession was one of dozens around the country. It’s now one of the few that’s still alive, down to the changes we have made.”
Of the loss of green space, he commented: “It is a shame that trees have to be lost but there’s going to be some significant improvements.
“There’s no natural surveillance at the moment – no buildings front onto the park at all. There’s some lighting but it’s not the best and there is little CCTV coverage.
“By providing half a million to improve the park, by making sure that the public realm is of a high quality and by spending far more money on a basement car park than a surface car park, we feel we are justified in taking what is quite an insignificant amount of the park, particularly when it comes with all the inherent benefits.”
If approved the scheme could be completed by autumn 2013.
Shirley Residents’ Association had previously criticised the former scheme’s size, effects on traffic levels, impact on smaller stores and the use of park land but said it had not seen the revised plans.
Solihull MP Lorely Burt is to join councillors and staff from Shirley Advance to visit a random sample of residents and collect feedback.
She said: “Any proposal that takes park land, when Shirley has less than any other part of Solihull, is obviously going to upset local people. I very much want the regeneration of Shirley – it’s desperately needed.
“But the difference between my perception and that of Shirley Advance is I feel that the Asda store will suck the life out of the little independent shops on the High Street. Shirley Advance say it will do the reverse.”
Comments can be made online at www.parkgateshirley.com, or at Shirley Baptist Church in Stratford Road from 4pm-8pm on Thursday, June 17 2pm-6pm on Friday, June 18 and 10am-4pm on Saturday, June 19.