A controversial planning application for a drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop in Northfield has been approved by Birmingham City Council’s planning committee today (Thursday 21st July).

The original plans submitted for the coffee shop on Sir Herbert Austin Way (A38 bypass) at the junction of Vineyard Road, were met with mixed reaction. Many local politicians, parents, school governors and senior staff and local residents were concerned about the proximity of the entrance of the site to the Bellfield Schools site.

The plan is that there will be an entrance onto the Starbucks site at the top of Vineyard Road, with the exit being back onto the A38. The entrance is very close to the pedestrian access to Bellfield Junior, Infant and Nursery Schools and Childrens Centre.

Developers responded by submitting a new planning permission application, with some changes which they claimed would improve schooltime safety in Vineyard Road.

At the planning committee meeting this morning, John Liggins, Director of Ziran Land Ltd., said that measures – such as improved safety barriers, allowing parents to use the coffee shop’s car park, no deliveries at peak times and a footpath through their site providing access to the schools – would make the area around the school safer at busy times.

Representing the governors, senior staff and parents of Belfield Infant School, chair of governors Reverend Dave Tubby told the committee that despite reassurances from the developers, there was still serious concerns about the safety of children should be development to go ahead.

In discussion of the application, counsellors on the committee expressed mixed views. While most supported the principle of the development which will create around 20 jobs, several were concerned about the safety issues express, despite an independent report stating that safety would be improved.

Some expressed a wish to visit the site before reaching a decision but, with schools breaking up it was noted that it would be sometime before they could make a useful visit to see how the road is at school pickup and drop off tones. The committee voted 4-6 against a site visit.

Weoley councillors Peter Douglas Osborn (Con) and Steve Bootton (Lab) both sit on the planning committee and both expressed concerns about site safety.

However, when the committee voted, 7 councillors were for the proposals and just 2 voted against, with 2 councillors abstaining.

Following the decision, Rev Tubby said: “The school is very disappointed with the outcome and believe that insufficient concern has been taken regarding childrens’ safety for what is a very busy road. We are disappointed that given the concerns that councillors had, therefore, that no site visit was considered appropriate.

“We will do everything we can to ensure this remains a safe entrance for parents and children. We want to reassure parents that we will take every possible measure to ensure the safety of our children. This remains our highest priority.”

Richard Burden, MP for Northfield, said: “I don’t yet have the full details of this decision and of any conditions that the Planning Committee have attached to their approval. What is clear is that local schools and others have serious concerns about the way that traffic around the new coffee shop may work. It is vital these are addressed. The safety of children should be a priority for everyone involved.”

John Liggins, director at Ziran Land, comments: “With today’s decision we will now look at timescales to deliver the new coffee shop. The development will regenerate this vacant site and create jobs, whilst also providing car parking, footpaths and a waiting area that parents and schoolchildren can use safely.”

Comments: