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26th Jun, 2022

Application to build five houses in flood-torn Dickens Heath prompts outrage

Felix Nobes 26th Jul, 2018

A CONTROVERSIAL application to build five houses in a flood-torn area of Dickens Heath has prompted widespread anger from residents.

Dickens Heath Residents Association, parish council and ward councillor Ken Hawkins are outraged at plans to demolish one house and build five detached three-storey homes in its place.

The development, including a new driveway for the proposed houses, will stretch to the rear of properties in Birchy Leasowes Lane and bungalows in Birchy Close.

The application for 85 Birchy Leasowes Lane has been criticised for being ‘out of character’ with the area while those in opposition say it could increase flood risks.

There are also concerns it will overlook surrounding properties.

Residents are upset by the ‘ecological destruction’ of the area after ‘mature trees’ were felled by developers, Green Villa Homes, even before the application was submitted.

Particular concerns include a drainage system being overwhelmed and reduced flood defences from tree felling.

After a month’s worth of rain fell in two hours at the end of May, the site was heavily flooded.

Residents any further actions by developers to be put on hold until ongoing council flood risk investigations are completed.

A Dickens Heath Parish Council spokesperson said: “We request that this application is refused with an emphasis on the public interest in the outcome of the current flood risk review being completed as quickly as possible.”

They added the developers’ plans needed to be more fully assessed for their design and drainage provision.

Blythe councillor Ken Hawkins is ‘incensed’ at the destruction of the local habitat.

He says the developers’ application commits to ensuring “as many trees as possible and hedgerows are retained as far as they are compatible with the development”, and that trees cut down should be re-planted.

A spokesperson from the residents’ association said: “We are concerned that the developer has systematically felled significant numbers of mature trees and hedgerows over several weekends around the Easter Holiday period to facilitate this development in advance of submitting the application.”

A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “The land in question to the rear of Birchy Leasowes Lane and Birchy Close is not currently the subject of any statutory tree protection, which means that recent tree removal works were not unlawful.”

Green Villa Homes response:

A spokesperson from Green Villa Homes said: “This development of five houses fits perfectly within the character of the area.

“The development to the left of the site is clearly shown on the site plan and location plan.

“Each of the new houses is a bespoke design specific to the local area which respects the amenity of the neighbouring houses.

“Trees were felled during the bad weather earlier in the year enabling us to access all parts of the site.

“The trees that were removed sat within private land and were not subject to any protection orders, most were ‘self-set’ and were not of particularly high quality of which we have photographic evidence.

“The ecological report has confirmed this. While we acknowledge this has prompted concerns from neighbours and local councillors we have engaged the services of a landscape architect to produce a sensitive proposal to plant replacement specimens as part of a detailed landscape plan.”

Responding to concerns about flooding risks, it said: “We are obviously concerned regarding any potential flooding risk within and around the application site and have engaged the services of a firm of drainage engineers to fully assess the current scenario and any potential impact of the development.

“It may be that the provision of a new land drainage system on the site could help alleviate the problem.”

Responding to accusations of ecological damage, it said: “An ecological survey was carried out and the site was described as ‘low in ecological value’.

“As always we intend to work very hard with the Local Authority Landscape officer to ensure that each of the gardens to the new dwellings have hedge and tree planting to encourage the creation of wildlife habitats.

“Peripheral hedge and tree planting were retained and will be further reinforced by the landscape proposals.”

Responding to claims the new houses would overlook neighbouring properties: “Each of the new dwellings have been carefully designed to respect the massing and amenity of its existing neighbours.

“The bungalows to the front of the site will be approximately 46 metre away and the new properties will be barely visible due to the existing tree lined boundary around the site.”

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