‘Death­trap’ fears over re­turn of ‘back-to-backs’ Coun­cil­lors crit­i­cise court­yard de­vel­op­ment be­sides canal

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

APROPOSED canal­side hous­ing es­tate is a re­turn to ‘back-toback’ homes and could be a ‘death­trap’ for chil­dren, it has been claimed.

The 117 houses and 90 apart­ments are to be built on the Ick­nield Port Loop site, in Edg­bas­ton, and fea­ture some units built around shared court­yards – sim­i­lar to old back-to-back hous­ing – while others open onto the canal banks.

De­spite the con­cerns, Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee gave the green light for the scheme by joint de­vel­op­ers Ur­ban Splash and Places for Peo­ple on land owned by the au­thor­ity and char­ity Canal & River Trust.

But some mem­bers were highly crit­i­cal of the de­sign. Coun­cil­lor Gareth Moore (Con, Erd­ing­ton) said the de­vel­op­ment seemed to have been cre­ated with ar­chi­tec­tural awards in mind rather than pro­vid­ing homes.

He told the com­mit­tee: “It should be sent back to the draw­ing board and they should ac­tu­ally build some de­cent hous­ing for de­cent peo­ple to live in.”

Cllr Barry Hen­ley (Lab, Brand­wood) said the com­mit­tee had ar­gued against this style of hous­ing when out­line plans for the area were ap­proved five years ago. He said: “All of our rules we ap­ply to hous­ing are sim­ply cast aside.

“We had a dis­cus­sion, we said we did not want back-to-back or court­yard hous­ing. This type of hous­ing is not pop­u­lar in the UK.

“No­body does it in Bri­tain. We’ve knocked down mil­lions of these houses, it’s ab­surd to build them.

“They’ve built up to the edge of the canal with no space for fenc­ing to make a death­trap for chil­dren.”

And Cllr Peter Dou­glas Os­born (Con, We­o­ley) added: “It does seem to be boxy. The glass el­e­ment seems to be huge and I won­der about the pri­vacy of the peo­ple who would live there. They would be in full view of peo­ple walk­ing past and we want peo­ple to walk past. I had hoped for a bet­ter de­sign.”

But Cllr Fiona Williams (Lab, Hodge Hill) pointed out the court­yard de­sign com­prised grassed play ar­eas rather than the old hard stone yards.

Chief plan­ning of­fi­cer Richard Goul­born also ar­gued that the court­yards were more like parks than the tight cob­bled spa­ces that the old slum back-to­backs were known for.

He added: “These are houses, they do of­fer a dif­fer­ent style of liv­ing. These are ef­fec­tively pri­vate parks.”

Of­fi­cers also ar­gued the homes would not nec­es­sar­ily ap­peal to peo­ple with young chil­dren and that safety would be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the oc­cu­pants.

The com­mit­tee ap­proved the plans by a nar­row six votes to five.

These 207 homes are the first of up to 1,150 ex­pected to be built on the canal­side near the city cen­tre.

Adam Wil­letts, se­nior de­vel­op­ment man­ager of Ur­ban Splash, said: “Once trans­formed, this area will bring so much to Birm­ing­ham – green spa­ces, parks, wa­ter­front spa­ces, an in­cred­i­ble ur­ban is­land com­mu­nity in which peo­ple can live, work and play.”

> An artist’s im­pres­sion of the first phase of de­vel­op­ment at the Ick­nield Port Loop site in Birm­ing­ham, which was crit­i­cised by some coun­cil­lors

> Old Birm­ing­ham back-to-backs

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