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