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Has Democracy Died in Sandwell? Residents' Concerns ignored over Brandhall
In the face of fierce local opposition from residents and regional leaders, Sandwell have pursued their development plans for the green space.
When one takes a deep breath and waits for to see how much worse Sandwell politics can get, the Sandwell Labour Cabinet unanimously agree to destroy the centuries-old Brandhall Green Space and the biodiversity contained within in the area including badgers, muntjack deer, more than 26 bird species and over 2000 trees.
Under the pretext of building 190 houses and relocating a school (which could have been set-up in many of Sandwell’s empty properties across the borough), Sandwell council’s cabinet seem to be hell bent on destroying the local green space in Brandhall, despite 83% of residents expressing their opposition to any kind of development.
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Cllr Jay Anandou and the Brandhall Green Space Action Group, made up of concerned local residents, have been at the forefront of highlighting the irregularities in Sandwell’s Labour Council’s decision-making regarding the Brandhall proposals. Yet even after the Scrutiny board questioned the cabinet decision, when the labour cabinet met on the 16th November after 3.30pm as dozens of residents protested against the development outside the Council building, the Cabinet refused to take the side of local residents and instead decided to destroy the green space.
This is most definitely a watershed moment in the history of Sandwell. The labour cabinet have made a mockery of the democratic public consultation and all systemic processes which were ignored, giving way to the vested interests of a few. The Leader of the Council and Cabinet member of Regeneration and Growth, Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, who drove the decision on Brandhall clearly did not have her electors at heart when the decision was made to destroy the pristine green space.
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Far from controversial, the campaign to save the green space had overwhelming support across the political spectrum, even though it was started by a local conservative Councillor Jay Anandou. The Liberal Democrats strongly objected to the development reflecting local residents’ views; Baroness Floella Benjamin questioned the labour leader on why Sandwell Council are going ahead with the destruction of Brandhall when the “community is already deprived of green space?”. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, gave a stern rebuke of Sandwell council‘s decision on social media, saying “it is deeply concerning to see plans... the strength of opposition from the local community is clear… I stand with the local campaign group”. He has also written to the Council directly.
It remains to be seen what the next steps will be from the campaign group and local residents who are understood to be discussing a potential judicial review. It is shambolic that even while Sandwell Council is in special measures, currently being overseen by government appointed commissioners, the Labour administration have been able to get away with draconian decisions like this, setting an undemocratic precedent of ignoring all future public consultations to serve its own vested interest.
Written by The Voice of Sandwell
‘The Voice of Sandwell’ writes in-depth stories from across the Borough, exclusively for Counter Cut.
The Brandhall Green Space Action Group can be found on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/brandhallgreenspace. They can be contacted by email at email@example.com
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