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One enterprisingSolihull resident found that the amount of greenspace in the borough was far smaller than his council claimed, making it harder to justify the sacrifice of parkland in Shirley for a new superstore. But as Barbara Panvel reports, mere facts don't seem to count for much.

Last Thursday I attended a meeting of Solihull Council's Scrutiny Committee which was to re-examine the decision that Shirley parkland and adjoining green space is surplus to requirements and could therefore be sold to Shirley Advance for the purpose of building flats and the ASDA store.

Keep Shirley Alive representative, Fiona Anderson, quoted referendum figures contradicting claims of widespread support for this sale, which would make the Asda-Walmart anchored development commercially viable.

It was then made clear that half of the £500,000 earmarked by Shirley Advance for improvements to the park, is to be paid by the taxpayer.

Even more surprising was the revelation in a presentation by Shirley resident Robert Cawte that the council's figures for green open space - the basis on which the parkland was decided to be surplus to requirements - were wrong. Their initial figure of 153 hectares was later changed to 138 ha. These sites were visited and measured by Mr Cawte who found a mere 63 ha of green space.

Not only was there far less land than stated at the original meeting, but this green open space, available in lieu of parkland, included graveyards, cemeteries, privately owned fenced and gated property, land outside Shirley and even outside Solihull's boundaries. Photographs of listed green open space included a site with spiked fencing and warning notices and a large area of Hillfield Park which has been sold and is being developed as a business park.

However voting proceeded along party lines and as the committee has a majority of Conservative councillors it was decided that this evidence need not be presented to the whole Council.

Truth was disregarded and gross inefficiency condoned - yet no one showed any surprise at the decision . . .


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