This from Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield:
PHANTOM THREATS AND PHANTOM VICTORIES AT THE GOLF COURSE
Elections are strange times. All parties tend to oversell ourselves and sometimes we all over criticize our opponents. But it is something else when election fever leads a Party to first invent a threat which does not exist and scare local people by warning them about it, only for the Party to then pat itself on the back for beating off the threat it had invented. But this is what has happened with the reported threat of 800 houses being built on North Worcestershire Golf Course between Hanging Lane, Tessall Lane and Frankley Beeches Road
The golf course lies on the borders of Longbridge Ward and Weoley wards in my constituency. Around this time last year, Conservative candidates in Longbridge and Weoley wards distributed leaflets to residents telling them that the Tories were campaigning against plans to build houses on the Golf Course. The leaflets gave the impression that such plans were well advanced. If that was the case, it would have been rather odd because the Council (and its Planning Committee) was controlled by the same Party that was doing the warning about what was “planned.”In fact, it was all a myth. The truth was that the Council was consulting on whether the Golf Course could have the theoretical potential for possible housing development at some unspecified time in the future. It was part of an overall plan for Birmingham, not just for the B31 area. Nothing was decided and no plan to build houses had been submitted. Indeed just one call to the Planning Department by the local Labour team confirmed that even the theoretical possibility of housing on the Golf course was unlikely to see the light of day.
Enquiries were also made of the Golf Club themselves who also confirmed they had no plans to build houses. Indeed they said that the Golf Club (who control the site) had no plans to go anywhere else.
Given all this, it is not surprising that as soon as the 2011 election was over, the controversy dissipated. Along with my local Labour colleagues, I kept in touch with the Golf Club and the Council and, predictably, the supposed “threat” came to nothing.
But now election time has come round again. This year, the Conservative candidates for Longbridge and Weoley have again been littering their leaflets with claims about the Golf Course. This time they not warning of a “threat” to the Golf Course. In 2012 they are now boasting about having “stopped” the development taking place. It would be funny if it did not have a serious side. But it does. Local people have been unnecessarily worried about the future of their neighbourhood and of local open spaces Meanwhile, members of the Golf Club have been understandably angry concerned about the unnecessary controversy and the unfair impact this has had on local perceptions of the club.
So yes, elections are elections but all of us in parties should also show some responsibility about what we say and do to get votes. North Worcestershire the Golf Course as part of our local heritage. We should celebrate the fact that this will remain so; not manufacture threats for political gain
We have spoken with a representative of North Worcestershire Golf Club who has confirmed that the Golf Club did not initiate the proposal for a move. He told us that they were approached by Birmingham City Council last year to see if they may be willing to move in order to build new council housing on the site. Their shareholders agreed to allow the proposal to be included in the council’s Core Strategy Proposals last year, but would only have considered completing a move if they could find a suitable replacement site. He was concerned that the whole incident had put off new members joining the club. He told us that the golf club, having been on the site for over 100 years, has no intention of moving and that new members are very welcome.
Residents were given the opportunity to comment on the proposals. No applications for planning permission have been submitted for this proposed development.
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