THE controversial £100 million Parkgate development in Shirley which includes an Asda superstore looks set to go ahead at last.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, has approved a series of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs), which will allow Solihull Council and its developer partner Shirley Advance to proceed with their plans.
Parkgate, formerly known as the Heart of Shirley scheme, was given planning permission by the council in September 2006 but was delayed by a public inquiry and appeals against the CPOs by property owners.
As well as the superstore, dozens of other shops and around 200 apartments are planned. But it will mean part of Shirley Park being concreted over, which has angered some Shirley residents.
Opposition to the development has been led by Keep Shirley Alive, a residents' group which says it is too big and will lead to existing traders being forced out of business.
However, the leader of the Conservative-controlled council, Ken Meeson, hailed the Government's seal of approval for Parkgate as "great news".
"It will give the centre of Shirley the shot in the arm it needs," he said. "Shops have been struggling to survive and several have closed in the past few years, including quite recently the Co-op store.
"But the economic climate has changed since the development was first proposed and we will be having talks with Shirley Advance about this. I have no reason to believe, though, there is any threat to the success of the scheme."
Liberal Democrat councillors and Solihull's MP Lorely Burt have opposed the development from the start, saying it is not right for Shirley.
Mrs Burt slammed the Government decision to remove the last obstacle to the Parkgate development. "The Secretary of State acknowledged the loss of valuable parkland was contrary to existing council policy and was 'regrettable', but went ahead and approved the scheme regardless," she said.
"This decision is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the council’s plans and flies in the face of views expressed by the vast majority of Shirley residents and traders, supported by their local councillors.
"As a result, valuable parkland will disappear and the life blood will be sucked out of retail businesses on the High Street.
"Despite the downturn in the economy making it even more difficult for Shirley traders to survive, the Leviathan is now at large and will gobble up much of the existing trade."