Discover more about the Friar Park Urban Village site, key project information, and the planning process.
THE OPPORTUNITY AND PLANNING PROCESS
The site has a long-standing allocation in the Council’s Development Plan for residential use. The Planning Application will reflect this policy.
This brownfield site suffers from the legacy of past industrial uses which has led to contamination and other poor ground conditions. The proposals from West Midlands Combined Authority and Sandwell Council are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reclaim this land for use that will benefit the local community and environment.
Given its large size at 27 hectares (approximately 40 football pitches), Friar Park presents a significant opportunity to contribute toward the delivery of much-needed housing in Sandwell. Redevelopment in accordance with Garden Village principles, will demonstrate confidence in the region’s ‘Brownfield First’ Strategy. It will enhance the environmental quality of the area and integrate seamlessly with existing communities. The masterplan will focus on high-quality design and attractive place-making.
The application being brought forward by West Midlands Combined Authority and Sandwell Council combines a mixture of the below proposals;
- ‘Outline’ proposals which seek to establish the principles and broad parameters for development on the site; and,
- ‘Detailed’ proposals for land reclamation/remediation works and means of access.
This Planning Application will be supported by a number of technical documents that will describe and assess the impacts of the proposals. This includes:
- Scheme Masterplan and Parameters Plans
- Planning Statement
- Environmental Statement
- Transport Assessment and Travel Plan
- Remediation Strategy
- Design and Access Statement
- High-level Design Code
Should consent be granted for this Planning Application, further Reserved Matters Applications would follow, providing detail for the housing elements of the site. These will be submitted by developers who acquire any interest in part, or all, of the site from West Midlands Combined Authority and Sandwell Council.
Before redevelopment can take place, it will be necessary to carry out ground works to reclaim and decontaminate large parts of the site. This will address the legacy of past industrial uses including mining, sewage works and a foundry. The result will be a much cleaner and greener site, bringing significant environmental and other benefits to the wider Friar Park area.
We are therefore carrying out on-site investigations and surveys such as, topographical surveys, noise monitoring, ground investigations and ecological assessments to investigate these constraints and inform our initial plans for the site.
This activity will be taking place on different areas of the Friar Park site over the next few months.
A key aspect of our masterplan process will be to ensure we provide green and open spaces for all to enjoy. Friar Park is a densely built-up area and the importance of providing new public open space, such as playing fields, sports pitches, children’s play areas, communal spaces and areas for biodiversity (the amount and variety of wildlife) is recognised. This is more important now than ever, given the restrictions due to COVID-19 and more people working at home, possibly for extended periods of time in the future too. Outdoor spaces will allow residents to enjoy the environment outside of their homes.
The path from Kent Road and Friar Park Road – known as the ‘Black Path’ – will be maintained and possibly re-aligned to integrate better with the new development. It will also provide increased surveillance and better access for pedestrians moving to, from and through the development, and surrounding areas. This will align fully with our proposed open space strategy for the site.
We will be undertaking desk-based research to review historical plans, environmental data and previous ground investigation information held by the Combined Authority and Sandwell Council. This will then be used to inform further ground investigation works across the site.
These works will include the drilling of boreholes and excavation of trial pits to investigate the ground conditions beneath the site, undertaken in accordance with current industry guidelines and best practice.
Detailed risk assessments will allow us to understand the risks and seek to address and mitigate them through a Remediation Strategy for the overall development.
Following on-site surveys, the impacts on local nature and wildlife, if significant, will be considered in the Environmental Statement. Where appropriate, suitable mitigation measures will also be proposed.
The development provides an opportunity to improve the biodiversity (the amount and variety of wildlife) on site by:
- enhancing existing and planting new hedgerows and trees;
- creating new landscaped areas; and
- enhancing / introducing footpaths.
To ensure the needs of local people are met, during the early stages of our technical work, we are undertaking research on the local residential and wider development market. This will inform our plans and determine what types of houses and tenure are best suited to the area.
It is likely that most homes at Friar Park Urban Village will be for family occupation. Although market demand may indicate that some apartments might be appropriate in certain locations, in which case, buildings of possibly 3-4 storeys could be considered.
The type and scale of properties will also be determined by Sandwell Council’s planning policies and viability considerations. Together, this will ensure that the development meets local requirements and is deliverable.
A Design Code will complement the Planning Application submission and guide development design on the site following permission being granted. The Design Code will set out key architecture and urban design principles related to matters including scale, layout, open space and density. These principles will be shaped with input from the local community and stakeholders through our consultation process.
At this early stage, we are undertaking research on the local residential market and previous work on local housing needs. This will inform our plans and determine what types of properties and tenure are best suited to the area so that we can ensure that the housing needs of local people are met as far as practicable.
The effects of air quality from the surrounding environment such as the road network and railway, will be calculated using modelling software. Inputs and settings will be chosen following government guidance and agreed in advance with the Local Planning Authority. Results will be assessed against current UK health-based air quality objectives and any other objectives that Sandwell Council requires to be used.
Assessment outcomes will be considered in the development of our proposals, and mitigation will be considered if required. This may include:
- stand-off zones
- use of mechanical ventilation with filtration within dwellings
- barriers to reduce any adverse effects
This is a key aspect of our masterplan process. We recognise the importance of ensuring local schools and GPs can cater for the increased local population due to the development. We will work closely with the Sandwell Councils Education and Public Health Departments and relevant stakeholders to address these matters.
It is too early to say definitively that provision will be made for any new educational or healthcare facility on the site. However, addressing the local education and healthcare capacity issue will be high on the list of priorities for further consideration as part of the plans.
West Midlands Combined Authority and Sandwell Council has an aspiration to appoint a Developer Partner to deliver this development and commence construction in late 2022. The length of construction period is difficult to define at this stage. It will depend on many factors yet to be considered.
The Planning Application will be accompanied by an Environmental Statement. This document will identify any significant environmental effects likely to arise from the construction and occupation of the development. It will also put forward proposals to mitigate any adverse effects, including those that may arise from construction activities and related traffic movements. All these activities will have to comply with industry standard best practice requirements.
If permission is granted for this Hybrid Planning Application, we envisage developers wanting to purchase the site or parts of the site. As such, we would hope that local people get the opportunity to gain experience working on the site through their works.
Understanding the views of the local community and stakeholders is key for us to create a development that meets the needs of existing and future residents. This will also help ensure the site fully integrates with, and enhances, the surrounding communities. Friar Park has the potential to create a distinctive and desirable place in which to live and support a thriving community. It will act as a catalyst for further positive change and regeneration across a wider area.
A detailed engagement strategy has been created in agreement with West Midlands Combined Authority and Sandwell Council that puts forward a process that is transparent, inclusive and open to all.
We intend to implement an accessible two-phase consultation exercise. The first phase will seek views on masterplan options from the local community. The second phase will present and discuss our preferred option ahead of the Planning Application submission. At both stages we will invite feedback to help inform final plans. We want local people to have played a key part in the evolution of the plans in a way which will benefit the local community.
To ensure the consultation is open and accessible, a range of on and offline communication channels will be used to provide notice of the consultation phases, public information days and development proposals details. This will be done via social media posts, emails, adverts and posted information. You can also register below to receive email updates.
Email, freephone and freepost channels have also been created to facilitate local feedback and questions (see below).
Public and/or online events will be held in appropriate local venues / platforms, that are convenient for stakeholders. These events will be at times that take into account school holidays and the constraints of the working day. This is dependent on current COVID-19 guidelines. Public health and safety remain of paramount importance and appropriate safeguards will be put in place.
Please get in touch if you have any comments or questions on the Friar Park Urban Village development.
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