Save Lion Farm Fields

Lion Farm Playing Fields : 19 hectares of priceless green space, situated close to junction 2 of the M5

Background:

In December of 2012 developer Jeremy Knight-Adams handed over a large sum of money to Sandwell council,

– in return for this he was granted an exclusive option to proceed with the purchase, and then ‘concrete over’ of Lion Farm Playing Fields.

The proposed development will supposedly see the fields turned into a high end designer outlet village, subject to a detailed planning application being submitted and approved, by ‘Autumn 2018’.

It was claimed, and is still being claimed, that as as result, “£200m of investment could be attracted to the area, and 2000 jobs might be created”.

“And pigs might fly” (hasn’t actually been claimed, but would be slightly more believable)

Sandwell council also claim that “”Details of the scheme were again in the public domain when a further cabinet report proposing the next steps was approved in November 2017”

The truth is very few details of the proposed Lion Farm development have ever been revealed, in the almost six years since it was first proposed (when it was cunningly hidden under the title ‘Junction 2 Regeneration’)

– and those that have been, are pretty much limited to “where the development is to take place”,

– accompanied by the above wild, and frankly ridiculous claim, that it “could attract £200m of investment, and create 2000 new jobs”.

 

In May of 2012, in association with Asda Foundation, who it’s understood made a donation towards the cost,

– Sandwell council agreed to put part of the Fields in trust, to replace land in trust at the site of what is now Portway Leisure Centre. A plaque was duly erected in the pavilion on the Fields to celebrate the event.

The fields were preserved for future generations to enjoy, or so they said in public. In private, something very different appears to have been unfolding.

Just six months later, in December of 2012, SMBC provisionally agreed to sell the Fields, in their entirety, to developer Jeremy Knight-Adams. Avoiding such ‘trivialities’ as putting the fields out to tender, in order to obtain the best price for a publicly owned asset, they instead took £245,000 from Jeremy Knight-Adams, and in return granted him an exclusive option to develop.

(Although J K-A didn’t actually hand the money over until the following year, 2013).

It is understood that the option was originally for one year, and was then extended to two. How it became effectively six years, no one will say. Nor will they reveal if any further payment was made.

 

So, after lying dormant for a number of years, who knows why, or how,

 – mention of plans to build ‘posh shops’ on top of Lion Farm fields resurfaced at the end of 2017, and according to a recent Press release, fully detailed ones, will shortly be submitted to Sandwell council (by ‘Autumn’ this year).

 

Earlier this year a small team leafletting the local area quickly established that many local residents were still completely unaware that the 19 hectares of vital green space that they live extremely close to… in some cases ‘across the road from’, might soon be concreted over.

The decision to raise awareness, and to do everything possible to save the Fields from, given the state of the retail trade in the UK currently, being pointlessly destroyed… was made soon afterwards, and the campaign began in earnest.

“Save Lion Farm Fields” first public meeting was at a local church on Sunday 22nd April, and was very well attended, with 68 people turning out, the vast majority being extremely concerned local residents.

 

The Black Country is synonymous with heavy industry, and in particular chain-making, local companies made chains for the anchors of some of the world’s most famous ships, including the Titanic, and a chain appears on the Black Country flag…

– we believe concreting over Lion Farm fields would be ‘a Titanic mistake’.

 

Our most recent ARP (Awareness Raising and Protest) event was therefore:

At 6:30pm, Wed 27th June, in Newbury Lane, meeting just outside the Post Office (Post Code: B69 1HE),

– where we invired local residents (and anyone passionate about saving them)

 to form a HUMAN CHAIN across the entrance to Lion Farm Playing Fields.

 

*** The event was a HUGE SUCCESS, with approximately 200 people turning out to demonstrate their support for, not just keeping Lion Farm Playing Fields, but improving them, and cementing their place at the heart of the community… for generations to come ***

 

Our next steps, including our next ‘ARP’ event, will be discussed and decided at our next Strategy meeting,

– this will be held at 1pm, on Saturday 21st July, in the Conservatory of the Phoenix pub ( Martley Rd, Oldbury B69 1DY )

Please come along and join us if you would like to share ideas, or even help in running the campaign.

 

Sandwell council and Jeremy Knight-Adams apparently ‘refute the claim that this deal has been surrounded in secrecy’,

 – yet neither will provide answers to the following very simple and straightforward questions: 

 

Eleven questions which both SMBC and J K-A are currently flatly refusing to answer:

i) Why was no attempt was made to put the potential purchase of these fields ‘out to tender’, in order to obtain the best value for local taxpayers?

ii) How was the developer Jeremy Knight-Adams selected ?

iii) The initial option to develop was granted for a year, with a potential one year extension, back in December 2012,

– how did it get extended, as is now being reported, until ‘Autumn 2018’, has any extra money been paid for this ?

iv) Has a sale price been agreed for the land which constitutes Lion Farm Playing Fields, if so, what is it ?

v) Why are Sandwell council refusing to allow the deed with details about the agreement between the council and Fields in Trust (eg how long trust protection lasts)

…to be placed into the public domain?

vi) Around 12 football playing fields will be lost at Lion Farm, with a further two at Londonderry, where are the potential replacements for these?

vii) It has been stated that considerable infrastructure changes will be needed to support the potential development, what are they, and who will pay for them ?

(roads in the area are already serious congested, any new work will not be able to start until M5 Junction 2 Oldbury Viaduct work is complete in 2020, there is also now a huge amount of work planned to take place on Birchley Island)

viii) Where is the evidence that any ‘high end retailers’ actually want to come to Oldbury?  (Mostly they currently seem to be leaving!)

– if there are retailers wishing to base themselves in Oldbury, why have they not located themselves on the site next to Sandwell and Dudley train station, known as ‘the Junction’, a brownfield site where full planing permission was granted for outlets two years ago, but nothing appears to have happened since ?

ix) A similar development is already underway in Cannock, ‘Mill Green’, the council there extracted lots of commitments from the developer:

– town centre improvements, local railway station expansion, free wi-fi provision, a new Retails and Skills Academy, to name but a few,

– what benefits to the local community have Sandwell council extracted from Jeremy Knight-Adams?   (Seemingly zero, zip, zilch, “diddly squat” ?)

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/staffordshire/cannock-chase/2018/02/23/mill-green-designer-village-work-starts-on-building-115m-shopping-destination/

x) What work has been done to assess the environmental impact of concreting over Lion Farm fields ?

– these fields have been identified as a very important ‘Wildlife Corridor’, there is lots of evidence that air pollution levels are already dangerously high close to motorways in Sandwell, and there will likely be a greatly increased flood risk.

What consideration has been given to these issues ?

xi) Have all local brownfield sites been fully considered and eliminated as potential alternatives (as promised by West Mids Metro Mayor Andy Street),

– if so, where is the evidence for this ?

 

There are a whole host of reasons why attempting to build ‘high end outlets’ on Lion Farm Playing Fields is very obviously a really bad idea,

– please click the ‘Reasons not to concrete over Lion Farm Playing Fields’ tab for a summary of these (hover your cursor over this item in the menu at the top of the screen)

– and write to your local councillor, your MP…. the silent-on-this-issue Rt Hon John Spellar, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (current Rt Hon James Brokenshire), or anyone you think might be able to help “Save Lion Farm Fields”.

 

Please also follow the progress of our campaign on Twitter and Facebook:

Twitter:  @LoveLionFarm,    Facebook:  Save Lion Farm Fields (public group)