This application has been approved and work is now well under way for the new school. The developers have been co-operating over parking in neighbouring roads. The school will open in Sept 2015.
The University of Birmingham Plan to build and run a Secondary School on the site of its Selly Oak Campus and former Westhill College in Selly Oak. The Weoley Hill Village Council has supplied a response to the consultation run by the University on this topic. Weoley Hill Village Council are members of CP4SO and the site is on the edge of the area covered by CP4SO. We copy the Village Councils submission below:
Weoley Hill Village Council
Response to Consultation on University of Birmingham’s Proposed School and Sixth Form Centre
The proposed school is situated on the former Westhill College site, at the junction of Weoley Park Rd and Bristol Rd in Selly Oak to the immediate north of Weoley Hill Village.
Whilst not having strong objections in principle to the concept of the school, the Council recognises that the opening of a school with over a thousand pupils in this location could have a very negative effect on the quality of life in our Village. We would expect the University to take the issues we raise seriously and to put in place robust measures to mitigate the potentially negative impact that this could have on our quality of life and on the unique urban environment of Weoley Hill.
Our early discussions with the University were positive, however the recent consultation events have changed our view on how the University is assessing the impact of its proposals. Our perception now is that, in its haste to establish the school, the University is prepared to ride rough shod over the concerns of its neighbours.
Weoley Hill Village was built by Bournville Village Trust as their first development to the west of the Bristol Rd. Work commenced in 1912 but was delayed by the start of the first world war with the majority of the development to the North of Middle Park Rd taking place between 1920 and 1935 and that to the South of Middle Park Rd between 1930 and 1960. It is a unique and sensitive urban environment of narrow winding streets, greens, woodlands and parks in the valley of the Woodbrook. Dame Elizabeth Cadbury was directly involved in the early planning of the village. Weoley Hill Village Council was established in the mid 1920’s and has been meeting regularly without break since then.
Key to the uniqueness of the village is the mix of housing which ranges from terraces of workers' cottages through the semi detached homes of the Bournville work’s white collar workers, to the large detached houses of the works managers.
The Weoley Park Rd frontage of the Village has comprised a range of religious and adult training colleges, the largest of which is the former Westhill Teacher Training College which was incorporated into Birmingham University in the early years of the last decade.
These colleges have traditionally been residential, with students living on site and the main daily movements being tutors arriving and leaving. Since the 1960’s there have been problems with tutors and students arriving by car and needing to park on the surrounding roads, there was an attempt to address this by installing yellow line parking controls.
The anticipated arrival of over 1000 pupils in addition to staff and other employees, moving on and off this site on a daily basis is clearly of a different magnitude and the University needs to ensure that measures are in place to control and minimise the impact on both Weoley Hill and neighbouring areas. This response will primarily address issues of access and egress from the school, but will also address the admissions policy where we feel the University has gone back on earlier assurances so as to now pose a potential threat to both the character of the area and its social cohesion.
Parking and Access
· There are only 47 parking places within the curtilage of the school to accommodate both staff and visitors. We understand parents and pupils will not be able to use those spaces. While it might be expected that numbers of staff will arrive by public transport this cannot be guaranteed and given that the staff compliment alone will be well in excess of a hundred there will be increased parking on the neighbouring streets, which are not designed for this. Given that during their time in sixth form pupils will become car users in their own right how are their cars to be accommodated? Yet again more pressure on the local streets. Residents from Weoley Park Road who attended your recent consultation spoke of their difficulties with the old college and this development will certainly exacerbate what was in comparison a much smaller problem. It was also stated at the consultation that the bus service from the other three node points will not be free, so parents are likely to use their cars to drop off and collect their children particularly if they have more than one attending
· Parents Evenings/Open Evenings: The Village Council has no doubt that this will be a good and popular school. This will draw large numbers of parents of potential pupils to open days and evenings, in other parts of the City and indeed across the Bournville Trust Estate, this causes considerable disruption to people living in the locality through street parking. At the consultation events your officials were unable to offer any reassurance on how this would be managed. This is surprising given that the University itself manages these events well on its Edgbaston Campus with remote car parks on playing fields on the Bristol Rd being used for parking with free buses to the campus. The Village Council would want reassurance that the street would be patrolled by the University during these events to ensure that parents are directed to the car parks provided and do not park on the local residential roads.
· Use of cars by Parents to Drop off and Pick up Pupils: This provides the most serious threat to the quality of life of the residents of Weoley Hill and its neighbouring areas. The University seems to have an almost naive belief that most of the pupils will arrive by public transport while evidence from elsewhere in the City shows that a large percentage of pupils are dropped off and collected by car. There are some eight schools within the Bournville estate and each has significant issues with this. Police are regularly called upon to stop people parking illegally and to deal with complaints from residents. We have no doubt that this will be the same here. Please refer also to the point above regarding no free bus.
· Kiss and Drop areas within the Curtilage of the School: At the consultation there was no indication given of the capacity of this facility, if we assume a third of the pupils at a minimum will arrive and leave by car this will mean a minimum of an additional 300 cars using the roads around the school every day. Will the ‘kiss and drop’ facility be able to cope with this level of use? Otherwise it will inevitably mean more disruption for local residents.
· Parental Contracts: At the consultation it was suggested that there would be contracts between parents and the school which would commit them to sending their children to the school by public transport. How would you enforce this? Would you have staff patrolling at opening and closing times? In the case of repeated violation would you prepared to expel the children of the parents involved? If the school does not have vigorous enforcement procedures these contracts are not worth the paper they are written on.
· Access to the School from Fox Hill: Currently there is access from the Westhill site from Fox Hill. Fox Hill is a narrow and very attractive road. At the initial meeting the Village Council was given assurances by Ian Barker that there would be no possibility of there being either access or egress from the school through the Fox Hill entrance. At the consultation meeting it appeared that there was some equivocation on this. The Village Council has to make it completely clear that any access or egress from the school by pupils or staff via Fox Hill is totally unacceptable and that all possible use of this entrance now or in the future must be removed prior to the school opening.
· Although not strictly in Weoley Hill the Village Council is concerned about the impact of increased parking, particularly at dropping off and collecting times, on the accommodation roads on Weoley Park Rd opposite the entrance to the school. there is significant potential for parents and staff to park on the grass and ruin what is now a very pleasing environment.
· Lodge Hill Cemetery: There is also a nearby crematorium and graveyard which needs access and egress by dignified means at peak flow times to and from the school. How is this to be achieved?
Residents from Weoley Park Road who attended your recent consultation spoke of their difficulties with the old college and the problems caused new school will certainly be significantly worse. The University did not manage traffic and parking then, and following the consultation we have little confidence that you will do so in the future.
Impact on Road Junctions
The Village Council is very concerned about the impact of increased traffic at the two busy main road junctions serving the site.
· Bristol Rd: This is already a busy junction particularly at peak times. The Village Council understands that the City Council does not want this to be a main route to the site and have suggested an improved cycle routeway into Weoley Park Rd. This would be very dangerous particularly for young cyclists and while the Village Council would want to encourage pupils to travel to the school by bike at this point they should be using the pedestrian crossing.
· Weoley Park/Gibbins Rd /Shenley Fields Rd Junction: This gives the Village Council particular concern, traffic flows at this point have increased significantly since the opening of the Selly Oak By- Pass and is set to increase further with the opening of the new Sainsburys and Medi Park on the Birmingham Battery site. This junction is already dangerous with numerous accidents and given the preference of the City Council for the use of this junction as a means of access to the school there should be significant alteration to its configuration. Serious concerns were made by both Selly Oak and Weoley City Councilors about the impact of the Medi Park/Sainsbury’s development on this junction, the proposed school has potential to make this situation worse particularly at peak times.
The Village Council is also concerned that any restriction on the use of the Bristol Rd junction will have the effect of forcing school traffic down Weoley Hill and onto Fox Hill and Witherford Way. These are designed narrow lanes and would not cope with any increase in usage.
During the Build Period
The Village Council is clear that any use of roads in the Village by construction traffic would be completely unacceptable. The Village Council would want an assurance of enforceable and contractually binding clauses complete with financial penalties are contained in all contracts relating to the building works restricting access to and from the site to the entrances on the Bristol Rd and on Weoley Park Rd, and not to use the Gibbins, Shenley Fields and Weoley Park Rd junction adjacent to the cemetery.
At initial meetings with the University the Village Council was given assurances that admission to the school would be on a city wide basis and on a first come first serve basis, this was reassuring to those involved but we reserve our position. The proposal for a hub and node system based on postcodes has had damaging impact on social cohesion elsewhere in the City and has the potential to cause similar disruption in Weoley Hill. It has been stated elsewhere in this document that the Village Council expects this to be a good school, the competition for places will mean that if allocation is by postcode proximity to the school there will be an increase in properties being purchased for rent to parents as convenience addresses. The Village Council is of the opinion that the University has not given any consideration to adverse social impact on Weoley Hill of this ill considered policy.
The Village Council would welcome local recruitment to the school, but on a more sensitive basis, say from the four surrounding wards, Weoley, Bournville, Selly Oak and Northfield on a first come first served basis or by ballot.
At the Consultation Events Village Council Members were informed that there would be no formal feedback on any of the matters raised and that the University would not be prepared to come to public meetings to say how they would mitigate the concerns of people living in the locality. Local residents specifically asked for this, given the consultation is happening in peak holiday time. This is unacceptable and if confirmed, shows a total lack of transparency on behalf of the University.
There was also a reluctance to disclose/disclose your traffic consultation. All documentation relating to the environmental impact of the new school, particularly relating to traffic flows should be in the public domain. At the consultation events Village Council members were informed that while transport consultants had been retained there was no formal report. The Village Council does not find this a credible response.
The University should commit to funding residents only parking zones in Weoley Hill, Fox Hill and Weoley Park Rd during the period of drop off and collection of pupils from the school. This would mean that the police and the City Council could enforce against parents who start to use cars to transport pupils to the school and park inappropriately. These measures must be in place when the school opens, would be extendable other roads in the are should this prove to then become an issue for residents.
Verbal reassurances by the University are not enough. The proposed school has the potential to damage the quality of life for residents of Weoley Hill forever, but this need not be the case. Local residents need the ability to hold the University to account for the impact of the school on its neighbouring communities. The only way this can be made meaningful is through a Service Level Agreement negotiated between the University, The Village Council and its parent body Bournville Village Trust which details the measures the University will put in place to mitigate the impact of the school on the community. This agreement should allow for regular reviews and outline procedures to be followed in case of breach.
If these matters are sorted to the satisfaction of local people at this stage, then there can be a positive relationship between the school and its neighbours. If the University chooses to ignore or gloss over our views then it will reinforce the old impression that Birmingham University is in Birmingham but cares little about the City and its residents, we had hoped this was changing.
The Village Council has been informed that the University intends to submit an application for planning permission on the site in early August, given that this is the peak holiday period this is totally unacceptable and the Council will be writing to the Director of Planning at the City Council to ask for an extension to the consultation period of a month to ensure that local people can make a considered response to these proposals.