MORE than 2,000 people viewed controversial plans for a mixed use development in Knowle, including a Waitrose food store, last weekend.
The proposals by Kimberley Developments would see the erection of the store on the site of the present village hall, as well as car parking and the resiting of 10 council-owned bungalows. The village hall would be rebuilt on the old bowling green.
More than 900 people responded to the comment forms at the exhibition with around half supporting the proposals and half supporting them with reservations or not at all, according to the developers.
Certainly not in favour are homeowners Sandra Field and her neighbour John Spain who have properties directly opposite the proposed site of the Waitrose store in St John’s Close.
With Tesco’s already to the left and plans to build new bungalows behind their homes, the residents fear they will be ‘sandwiched’ by development.
Sandra, who lives with husband Andy and sons Harry and Max said: “We are obviously not a consideration. I’m sure offering new sheltered housing and a new village hall is quite attractive to those residents and Solihull Council but what about my family?
“Building in front of my home and to the rear will devalue my property and cause us problems. Not to mention our privacy and child safety issues”.
And John added: “We have no recourse. No one has spoken to us about this. Everyone else has been offered an alternative such as the bungalows. It’s cowardly. They have chosen to ignore us altogether. We are the only people to be directly affected by it. Waitrose say they expect to take £260,000 per week at an average of £8 per basket. That’s 32,500 people going through the village.”
But it’s not just Sandra and John who are unhappy about the plans.
Dorothy Harwood is 85-years-old and has lived in her bungalow since 2000. Kimberley Developments met with all the tenants affected just before Christmas to discuss the proposals as well as offering each of them £1000 ‘disturbance fee’ and advice to claim £4000 in a Government scheme once settled.
Dorothy said: “I don’t want to move to be truthful. If it comes off, it comes off but the only thing is we won’t get our own drives. I don’t want to be moved too far away because I won’t be able to walk across to my stepsister who lives nearby.”
Living opposite Dorothy in another bungalow not affected by the plans is Colin Burley. “Parts of Knowle could do with being improved, he said. “But Knowle doesn’t want this. I don’t want Waitrose to come.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Jacqueline Keyte who lives in Kenilworth Road. “If we are going to have a Sainsbury’s and then a Waitrose what about the parking? That’s the bugbear.”
Paul Taylor of New Covent Garden greengrocers is worried.
He only moved into his premises on Knowle High Street on December 21. He says he has a lot to lose if Waitrose comes to town.
“I went to Philip Pearce of Kimberley with an open mind at the weekend and he told me that out of all the traders I would suffer the most. I found out that since Waitrose opened in Kenilworth the greengrocers there has closed down.
“The people here have supported us fantastically. I can only try and build up my reputation and hope to hold on to it.”
Chair of The Knowle Society, Peter Ewin said: “The Knowle Society recognises that the development proposed by Kimberley would be the most substantial development in the heart of the village for forty years. As the site involved sits on the edge of a Conservation Area, it is vital that any development will not only have a positive impact in itself but also not have a negative impact on more mature areas.
“As a charity formed in 1962 to maintain the character of the village whilst maintaining high standards of planning and architecture, we will take a keen interest in the detail of any planning application that results from Kimberley’s current initiative. When such an application is made, we will give our members a full opportunity to understand its implications and inform us of their thinking before we make our observations known to the Council on their behalf.
“As soon as a planning application is submitted, a public meeting will be scheduled and staged by the Society. Anyone interested should watch local notice boards for details.”