Sandwell Liberal Democrats’ objections to current plans for houses and flats on Sandwell Hospital grounds off Lewisham Street, West Bromwich

Although we regret the loss of hospital services, and especially the loss of A&E cover for West Bromwich, this application would make immediate use of the site and provide some welcome services such as affordable housing and a creche. However, we feel the application should not be approved unless some changes are made to the plans.

First of all, what services will be provided in the new medical centre in West Bromwich? (Application (DC/18/62402) only mentions a pharmacy. Will some form of Accident and Emergency cover be provided, even if it is only walk-in A&E cover?) You can see the details of the application here.

The current plan is for a maximum of seven stories for the flats, but the report highlights that some of the apartment sizes are below the Council’s standards, and the Highways Department has flagged a lack of parking. This suggests that the plans are trying to cram too many people and cars too densely into the space.

  • One way to alleviate this shortage of living or parking space would be to reduce the number of units, by restricting the building height to only five or six stories high and requiring apartment sizes that do meet the Council’s standards. This would also help allay local residents’ concerns about being overlooked.

The report also points out that the loss of the Henman’s Buildings or Chapel would be contrary to requirements to protect Black Country historical assets. It would be preferable if the development could find a way to incorporate these buildings, or at the very least the Chapel, into its proposal. They would add character to the development, and the design of the development should be in keeping with the character of the area and other buildings in the area, such as the Methodist Church and its community centre.

Will the communal garden area only be available to residents of the development, or could it also serve as a mini-park to other local residents?

We would like to clarify if the low NOx boilers mean that the flats and houses will be zero-carbon housing? Given the need to reduce carbon emissions to meet government targets, zero-carbon housing is likely to become a requirement and it will be cheaper to incorporate this in the design of the buildings than it will be to retrofit it afterwards.

While there is no reason to believe the design poses any fire safety concerns, has the red brick cladding been proven to be safe and not to include any flammable material? Also, the Council has previously been quite strict about the need for sprinklers in buildings. There is no mention of this in the report itself and confirmation of the requirements would be welcome.

And finally, does the Council try to match the balance of houses and flats in developments with needs of people on its Housing waiting list?

In summary, while there are many aspects of this proposal that we welcome we feel the application should not be approved unless the following conditions are attached.

  • Increased parking facilities and apartment sizes that meet Council standards
  • Retention of the historic buildings
  • Meet zero-carbon housing standards
  • Clarification of fire safety measures

Mark Smith, Nigel Fearn, Sadie Smith, Rob Johns

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