AFTER 25 years of false-starts, delays and inquiries, plans to redevelop Shirley town centre have finally been given the go-ahead.
The controversial Parkgate scheme got the green-light from the Planning Inspectorate on Tuesday.
Developers Shirley Advance had launched an appeal, after Solihull Council twice rejected the £80m scheme on the grounds of parking.
But the planning committee’s arguments were dismissed and the local authority has been ordered to pay a significant sum in costs.
Work on the project, with an Asda superstore at its heart, will begin early next year, and is expected to finish in late-2013.
Robert Birch of Shirley Advance claimed the development would “arrest the decline” of the ailing shopping parade.
Councillor Ken Meeson, leader of Solihull Council, said: “There were times when this scheme was hanging on by its finger-tips.
“It will breathe new life into Shirley, as the Asda supermarket has done for smaller shops over in Chelmsley Wood.
“However, costs have been awarded against the council and they’re going to be substantial - a lot more than just thousands.
“It’s disappointing that public money which should be spent on public services is going to be spent on things like lawyers.”
Coun Meeson added that the Lib-Lab group, who ran the council last year, had been warned about the costs if the developer’s appeal was successful.
But those parties, now in opposition, hit back and accused the Conservatives of glossing over Parkgate’s flaws.
Coun Simon Slater (Lab, Shirley West), felt this week’s result was a “kick in the teeth” for local campaigners.
“This scheme is going to cause absolute gridlock in what’s already one of the most congested areas of Solihull,” he said.
“It seems to me that the Conservatives’ main priority in this was just to get it out of the way.”
Solihull MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem) said: “I am worried that small businesses, the lifeblood of Shirley, will suffer because of this.”
And Ann Turner, secretary of Shirley Residents’ Association, said: “Only time will tell whether this development makes or breaks the town centre.”
* For more on what Parkgate will mean for Shirley, turn to page 5 or go to www.solihullnews.net .