Simon Baddeley sent me a report of his recent visit to this site for which he and others campaigned to save the allotments. It has links to some excellent photographs, an important addition to local archives.
The Evening Mail decided there was a story here and sent a photographer
called Fin round to go with me on to the VJA site. With permission from the
site manager we got access beyond the houses to the green space reserved as
a result of the Section 106A with the developer. See the plan.
I was agreeably surprised to see that the playing field area has already been
levelled off and grassed and looks like a good big area in the heart of
Handsworth well able to support two soccer pitches and a cricket pitch and
the planned sports pavilion. The grass looks green and healthy. The
allotment site is lying fallow all ready to be laid out according to the
detailed plan and slopes gently down towards the park with the houses not
too obtrusive to the east behind a retained hedgerow and built on lowered
ground so that from the allotments you see top windows and roofs. This will
provide security without having houses overhanging the plots or playing
fields. It seems clear to me that a lot of thought has gone into the lay
out of the site and I find the new houses attractive of not adventurous.
They don’t look like ticky tack for a start and they vary in size and style
though in a Victorian and Edwardian vernacular.
The reason I say I was agreeably surprised was that I didn’t expect the
land, currently surrounded by a high steel fence (but accessed with
permission from the site manager), to have been graded out to this extent
already. The playing fields look as if all they need are goal posts, or a
wicket, and the markings on the ground. I realise it’s more complex than
that and there will be issues of access. There must be paths and the
changing facility and no doubt other things like lighting and so on. The
same goes for the allotments. You could actually start a plot there now if
you were allowed, but also there need to be paths, access from park or road
and the promised gardeners store room and some parking spaces. This takes
time but at least the ground is prepared and reserved.
So when does it begin. The area badly needs playing fields and there is
enthusiasm for allotments – in this case – in a really wonderful site. OK
it’s gradually north sloping but I know from past experience how much sun
gets to this area and it’s secured to the west by the railway, to the east
by the new houses and its overlooked from the playing fields and the park
which gives the allotment site itself lovely prospects. There’s loads of
hedgerow and shrubbery on the west and south edges. Please let’s get digging
ASAP – on the largest new allotment site to be made available since WW2 and
its so close to the centre of Birmingham.
Handsworth Allotments Information Group
I am grateful to Simon for this information and his commitment to improving the quality of life in Handsworth.