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Guest Post: The disposal of Wednesfield High Lakefield playing fields

Mid February 2014 a notice appeared on the Lakefield gate of Wednesfield High School announcing that the Council would be applying to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove to dispose of the Lakefield part of the school playing fields

In mid February 2014 a notice appeared on the Lakefield gate of Wednesfield High School announcing that the Council would be applying to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove to dispose of the Lakefield part of the school playing fields. The notice explained that under a 1998 law this had to happen if the Council wanted to sell the land and all that had to happen was for the Minister to consider the  application along with any comments from the school and ‘registered users’.

wednesfield_high_consultation

I could not find any more information about this in open Council reports and internet information. There just seemed to be this one notice and some residents did not believe me until I showed them a photo of the notice. I raised the disposal with a Ward Councillor who also had a great deal of trouble finding anything more. I asked what the land would be used for. I was told that this was not clear strategically but it could be used for industrial purposes.

I decided I would make residents who were neighbours of the site aware of the proposal and  delivered 80 or so leaflets with the information I had found. A couple of weeks later a resident  tweeted the Council and was responded to with a message that it would be marketed for housing.

I used twitter to make others aware of the proposal and then took up Jerome Turner’s Offer to help me put the information I had collated on to a website.

The Councils Response.

A month after I had first asked about the proposal to dispose of the site, I received a very detailed letter from a Council officer explaining that the Council just could not consult widely with local residents until Mr Gove had given his decision about the disposal of the playing fields, probably in the summer. This letter explained that following the redevelopment of the School under The Building Schools for the Future programme, the school no longer needed the Lakefield site. Housing was the preferred use and the officer pointed me to two strategies I had not heard of before: a housing strategy and a Wednesfield open space strategy. The former is over 200 pages long and I am none too sure how it relates to this land, while I can’t find the open space strategy.

The letter also explains that while Wednesfield may be losing green space it is gaining newly publicly accessible open space on the Jennie Lee site and potentially the Lakefield site.

My concern is for the loss of further green space following the redevelopment of the Jennie Lee/Wards Bridge site. 30 years ago many Wednesfield residents supported a successful campaign to force Council and industry to reduce industrial pollution in the area, and the battle for the environment has, it seems, still to be made. Whilst I am sympathetic to the need for more local housing, I am told that there is evidence that the public health of residents benefits from the presence of green space. This provides an antidote to the more negative effects of industry and makes the local environment more attractive as well as providing space for leisure and sport.

Who will get to decide?

However, it is currently not clear how much control the Council has over the Lakefield site. I understand the Minister literally could just give the land to a new Free School, robbing the Council of a sale price and the community of new houses and accessible open space. I would expect potential Free school operators to have approached neighbours of land it wants to build on, and as far as I am concerned , this has not happened. This possibility, though, may explain why the Council has been so silent about this proposal, although some residents may believe that such a proposal may help keep the site mainly green.

If the land is returned to the Council, we seem , from the Officer letter, to have been promised consultation on the design of any development whereas there is no such guarantee for free school use. I would like to see, for instance, the development of a green corridor linking Fibbersley LNR with the Canal through the new Wards Bridge and possible Lakefield open space.

Someone once said the price of democracy is eternal vigilance. QED.

Richard Servian

5 replies on “Guest Post: The disposal of Wednesfield High Lakefield playing fields”

Would the issue have arisen if this land was in Tettenhall or Wightwick, no it would never have come into question would it!!!!

Just a comment . This is a section77 consultation under Education Act legislation. In short hand it is a device that allows other schools to bid for the land before it goes out to general planning consultation. We have the same legislation currently playing out over the sports field iat the former Danesmore Park School.

Has anyone considered that if it does go for new housing, where are these families going to send their children to school? Wednesfield High is already oversubscribed. With the new housing already happening on the Wards Bridge site, children from the Wednesfiled area will have to travel further and further afield to attend school. I would suggest a green space with the option to extend Wednesfield High in the future as I feel sure this will be needed.

I get very concerned when I hear about these ‘clearances’ , which ultimately is what they are.

I appreciate the need for affordable housing and the development of Wednesfield, but I do believe that restrictions should be placed on the developers which prevent the destruction of hundreds of trees and the obliteration of wildlife corridors that have been flourishing in the last decade or so. It seems money overrides everything!

SOCIETY NEEDS OPEN SPACES TO THRIVE !

When planning permission of the new housing estate , was granted, on the old reclaimed land at the side of the Essington and Wyrley canal by new cross hospital, a public consultation took place and the mature wildlife corridor along the canal was destroyed despite promises to the contrary.
The developer just ignored the council, and the diggers moved in!

Lakefield road had a wonderful wooded area along the whole of Jennie Lee centre’s field . Gone too! Today, even mature trees along the verges of Lakefield Road have been removed.

I don’t think the council realises, or cares, about the wishes of the local community. I hope that everyone who is going to be adversely affected by the possible sale of Lakefield playing fields are on the ball and get their concerns heard.

Good luck! You are going to need it!

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