Aquatics and Leisure Centre Gets Planning Approval!

At a meeting of the Birmingham City Council Planning Committee on 17 December, the planning permission for the Birmingham Aquatics and Leisure Centre (BALC) was granted by a vote of committee members…….

I attended the meeting and my recollections as to the happenings I give below, hopefully without colouring by personal opinions. I will post a comment later on what I think of the application and the processes involved in its approval.

 The purpose of the meeting was to approve or otherwise, amongst others,  planning application 2009/03532/PA which is recommended by the City Council Planners subject to conditions (see **** below):

Proposal: Erection of aquatics and leisure centre with indoor/outdoor sports facilities, associated highways works and parking

Site: St Vincent Street land adjacent to Nelson Primary School Birmingham 

Anyone wanting to make comments must have previously informed the Planning Committee of their wish to do so. They were then given a maximum of 3 minutes to make their comments.

All comments were to be targeted at the current application and not any other existing or possible application relating to the Aquatics Centre.

A number of comments opposing the application were made by both Councillors on the Committee and our Ladywood Councillor Kath Hartley. A number of Councillors on the Committee also commented in favour of the application.

Comments opposing included:

Kath Hartley opposing the location of the development for a number of reasons as previously stated and contained in the application document. She suggest an alternative of the Ladywood Arts and Leisure Centre off Ladywood Middleway and requested the Committee to turn down this application and seek a new one on this alternative site.

Points made by several Councillors in opposing the application were:

  • The cabinet has railroaded the application without allowing adequate consultation and serious consideration to alternative sites
  • Birmingham has a very small centre compared with other major cities like Manchester – new developments are being crammed into the small area surrounding Centenary Square – Aquatics Centre, Library of Birmingham, Regal House, etc, alongside the existing people intensive ICC, Symphony Hall, the NIA and Brindley Place’s social and business facilities
  • Public investment is not being used to expand the size of the city centre
  • The building is not big enough to support international events
  • Public investment should be used to lever in private investment but this is not the case with this proposal
  • Building is within 15 metres of existing residential property
  • Green (play) area on the site would be drastically reduced
  • There will inevitably be a knock on effect on local residents
  • With the best will in the world major events will take place simultaneously at the major venues of the Aquatics Centre, NIA ICC and Symphony Hall exacerbating the already high traffic congestion and parking problems
  • No extra parking spaces in the proposal
  • Drivers would be reluctant to use allocated spaces in NIA due to high parking charges and time taken to exit the car park following an event
  • No extra parking spaces for new Library would add to the parking problem as would the very limited ones in the Regal House proposal
  • There would be an increase in traffic increasing the possibility of gridlocks already experienced
  • No public transport passing close to the site (Broad Street is the nearest)
  • Some car drivers will not observe road parking restrictions
  • Narrow access road for coaches

 Comments supporting the proposal were mainly that Birmingham has needed such a centre for 20 years and that it will lift the image of the city. One Councillor expressed sympathy with local residents but the centre had to be close to the city centre.

 Council Officers at the meeting advised on relevant matters:

  • Providing car parking spaces for the centre on its site would add £10million to the construction costs
  • Estimates for parking spaces at normal events are 100 cars and peaking at 180 for an evening event
  • 500 spaces have been allocated at the NIA for centre use
  • Parking costs at the NIA would be £1 for 2 hours and £2 for 4 hours
  • Street parking spaces would be allocated to residents
  • Yellow no parking lines would reduce parking in neighbouring roads
  • Agreements would be in place to avoid coincident events at the other major venues
  • Estimates are for a maximum of 4 coaches wishing to enter the centre site with a facility for 10

A vote of Councillors on the Planning Committe was taken with results:

Approve 8  Against 5  Abstensions 1

I believe that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in power voted in favour and the Labour councillors against.

So planning approval was granted.

See also Birmingham Post article.

IMPORTANT CONDITION: Condition 28 states that “The development hereby permitted shal be begun before the expiration of (3) years from the date of this permission.” So, there’s a long way to go yet and funding will undoubtably be an issue!

****There are 28 conditions attached to the proposal. Summarising, these conditions stipulate that approval and conformity should be attained for:

  • Such things such as noise, access, landscaping, drainage, lighting, external building materials
  • preservation of existing and replaced trees
  • highway measures
  • affiliation to Company Travelwise in Birmingham (for decreasing reliance on the private car)
  • a parking management plan for the use of NIA parking spaces, BALC site spaces and on street parking
  • a Construction Method Statement defining various aspects of how the construction will be conducted (noise level, hours, security hoarding, wheel washing for plant, etc).

 The 28 page Planning Application document can be read or downloaded from here and its appendix diagram from here.

Geoff Caine