Campaigners in Burntwood have hit back at a councillor’s claim they are trying to shunt development into other areas of the town.

Cllr Rob Birch made the suggestion as the author of Burntwood Town Council’s formal response to the Lichfield District Council Local Plan consultation.

Cllr Rob Birch

He suggested that the approach of Burntwood Action Group (BAG) in trying to prevent an area of farmland bring removed from the Green Belt was too focused on the areas near the homes of members.

“It is clear to the town council that many of the arguments put forward by BAG against developments in the eastern side of Burntwood are not necessarily balanced with the needs of residents in other parts of the town.

“There is an apparent push from BAG to see all development located elsewhere in Burntwood where it does not impact as significantly on those living in the area BAG members are predominantly based in the St Matthews and Church Farm Estate areas.

“This approach is biased against residents in other areas of Burntwood.”

Cllr Rob Birch, Burntwood Town Council

But David Rathband, from BAG, has accused Cllr Birch of being “naive”.

“Cllr Birch stated recently that he believes Burntwood Action Group wishes to stop any development in the Coulter Lane part of Burntwood and to locate it elsewhere in the area, where it would not impact significantly those residents living in the vicinity, where he believes BAG members are predominantly based.

“This simplistic, naive comment has no basis in fact at all.

“The reality is that some of BAG’s most committed and active members live in the south western corner in Chasetown and north western areas of Burntwood.

“It is also a matter of public record that from the outset in 2009 that Burntwood Action Group has campaigned to retain all the Green Belt around Burntwood.

“In 2019 for example BAG generated 30 articles in relation to the Green Belt – eight of those were in relation to a proposed development of land around Bleak House Farm and four of those were in relation to Coulter Lane.

“BAG also publicly alerted everyone to the potential dangers to the development of farmland in 16 other parts of Burntwood and Hammerwich.

“In May last year we held a well-attended public meeting specifically in relation a potential development on Bleak House farmland.”

David Rathband, Burntwood Action Group

“An ill-conceived notion”

Mr Rathband said the group intended to seek further clarification on his statement in order that residents will fully understand his view on the issue.

“BAG’s most recent campaign is in relation to Coulter Lane simply because that is the land that is currently most in danger of being removed from the Green Belt by Lichfield District Council and therefore is in the sharpest focus.

“To suggest that many hundreds of BAG members are only interested in saving this area of Green Belt is simply an ill-conceived notion.       

“Cllr Birch would do well to remember that an overwhelming proportion of the population he serves want the Green Belt to be preserved.

“”Burntwood Action Group will be writing to him to ask him to expand further on his public statement that all areas will need to see their fair share of development – the public should know what areas and how many houses he has in mind.”

David Rathband, Burntwood Action Group

The war of words is the latest spat between members of Burntwood Town Council and the group.

After a public meeting last month councillors called for a formal apology from a senior member of the action group over comments made.

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11 Comments

  1. Firstly, some of the main members live on the only viable construction route into the Coulters Lane site. Go figure! Secondly, the flak is almost always directed at non-Tory councillors, including ones who do a huge amount for Burntwood. Second go figure. Cllr Birch is a target as he was banned from their FaceBook page comments, as I was, for the temerity of questioning the basis for their negotiations with developers.

  2. It is an interesting interpretation by BAG that the local plan is only about the Green Belt when in reality it is about the sustainable future of our town. They continue to imply they speak on behalf of the town whilst never having been elected and having no accountability whatsoever. 

    In reality the submission from Burntwood Town Council is made from those who have been elected to represent the townsfolk across the whole town and not just its outer edges. All Councillors were asked for input into the submission and all were sent the final copy, no elected member objected to the wording. 

    It was Burntwood Action Group who suggested the industrial area around New Road/Mount Road should be relocated to Chasetown. This included comments from some of their members that it would stop the smell from the vinegar factory getting up the noses of people in Burntwood. Presumably its impact on the residents of Chasetown are irrelevant?

    As usual they claim they are responsible for saving the Green Belt and yet the Labour Councillors have been fighting to keep the Green Belt safe for years with no acknowledgement from BAG for their efforts. Protection of the Green Belt has always been and remains a priority for a Labour led Town Council. 

    Rather than being naive, the response from Burntwood Town Council reflects the need to ensure the sustainable development of the whole town and not to sacrifice the majority for the benefit of those who’s nimby attitudes breed unrealistic expectations. So far we have seen BAG ignore the fact that areas like Sankeys Corner are largely privately owned as they develop their ever changing wish list. BAG wanted bijou shops which would undoubtedly close within months due to lack of custom. They then changed their mind and said a Town Centre for Burntwood should be abandoned in favour of housing to protect the Green Belt. This would leave us with no future retail centre servicing the needs of the local population. 

    At their recent public meeting BAG accused Councillors of taking brown envelopes but as such vexatious nonsense isn’t true they will never have any evidence to back it up. It is just cheap comments made by those who do not speak for the whole town. Again they are unaccountable and say and do what they want and not what the townsfolk need. They are a pressure group and nothing more. As such their focus is and will remain on protecting their own interests rather than than having to work in the interests of the public. Councillors are held to account at the ballot box, who elected BAG to be the voice of Burntwood? 

    BAG have a history of making political statements and criticising Labour Councillors regardless of them claiming to be none political. They have totally missed the fundamental message of the Town Council response which is that we object to the development of the Green Belt and we will fight to protect it. That we will work to see a sustainable future for Burntwood with service provision to match the needs of the population across all of the town and not just parts of it. Which part of that do BAG object to exactly? 

    Burntwood Town Council have to ensure the infrastructure meets the needs of the town in a sustainable way and we will continue to work towards a better Burntwood for everyone. 

  3. That ex opencast land (in Cannock Chase District) is designated Green Belt, and the land between their boundary and Stables Way in Burntwood’s boundary is also Green Belt.

    This does not stop the owner’s – the Church Commissioners – from suggesting in a recent Local Plan consultation that it should developed for housing but rest assured all of Chase Terrace Ward’s Town, District and County councillors are committed to fighting this.

  4. The comments from the councillor are as ridiculous as you’d expect. They appear totally out of touch with the community they serve.

    Yes BAG members are unelected. But who’s to say that unelected residents shouldn’t have a voice in local politics and planning? Isn’t that the whole point of having councillors? So that we, the community, have someone to voice our concerns to?

    And again claimed it’s politically motivated and aimed at labour representatives is just a joke. It’s a straw man argument. The issue is building on greenbelt land, it’s that simple. The Politics of the counselors or BAG or members of the public are irrelevant here.

    I attended that meeting and I’m thankful to BAG for giving us a voice. Otherwise, I feel like the council ignore our wishes.

    However, I’d like to remember here that we are ultimately all on the same side. We all want a better Burntwood and should ensure that this does not become personal a battle of personalities. That wouldn’t badly for all involved.

    It’s very clear that the house builders want to build on the cheapest and most profitable land possible which is the green belt. It’s also very clear that this is the worst situation for the community and the environment.

    The plan put forward by Burntwood Town Council seems wholly incomplete and doesn’t allow that adequate improvement of services such as schools and doctors. It also doesn’t seem to adequately push the housebuilders to help redevelop our town.

    It seems to me that the local councillors need to revisit their plan Now that they have a more clear idea of what the residents of Burntwood want?

  5. If Mr Hill is referring to the Neighbourhood Plan then he may not be aware that BAG had significant input into that plan and now suggest changing it, drawing the process out even further and denying the Town even more of the CIL money it has already lost. If he is referring to the Local Plan, then that is formed by Lichfield District Council and not Burntwood Town Council. If he is referring to to the Burntwood Town Council response to the Lichfield Local Plan review then I would point out that at every level it opposes any development of the Green Belt around the town and says that there is a dire need for investment in facilities for our community.

    It is the community we serve that contact us about these issues during the elections in May, since then at our surgeries and in person or via phone and email. We have young people telling us they want jobs, access to training and education and affordable homes that aren’t shoved above shops as BAG have proposed housing for young people should be. We have elderly people telling us they are sick of there being no facilities and a lack of public transport. We have families telling us they are having to travel to surrounding towns for things to do. People of all ages tell us that the facilities in Burntwood are not able to meet their basic needs. We have a public duty to reflect all of these issues and it is not just about the Green Belt no matter what BAG would have people believe. Mr Hill clearly has a valid view but so do all the other people mentioned above. To suggest that Councillors, who are in daily contact with their communities, are out of touch is just plain wrong and symptomatic of the way BAG continue to claim to be the only ones with a valid view or a voice that should be heard. The voice of the couple of hundred BAG members should be heard but so should the 30,000 other residents of Burntwood.

    BAG engage with people over the subject of the Green Belt and do a fantastic job of raising public awareness of the threat to our countryside by greedy developers. BTC and I personally, will continue to thank them for raising public awareness. However, Councillors of all parties deal with significantly more issues and have to take a holistic view of how best to meet the needs of the community. Protecting the Green Belt is only one aspect of this and there is a danger that Burntwood is seen as a one issue town by Lichfield District Council when it comes to this issue and risks the other needs of the people being drowned out. This would be wholly unacceptable as there are a great many people in this town in need of upgraded facilities or indeed any facilities at all. The response is written to point out that all of these issues need to be considered and it not just about saving the Green Belt, which again I will make clear Burntwood Town Council are determined should be the case.

    The response I wrote on behalf of Burntwood Town Council categorically states the following:
    “BTC maintain the position that all of the Green Belt areas around the town are currently not suitable or appropriate for future development”
    “ The NPPF is clear that once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified. BTC will seek to protect the Green Belt through the Neighbourhood Plan and accept no current justification for changes to boundaries whilst there is still a considerable amount of Brownfield land available to be developed. We do not feel that the unwillingness of developers to work with Brownfield land for reasons of profit maximisation justifies any need to remove land from the Green Belt. BTC feel that the Neighbourhood Plan sets out the wishes of the people of Burntwood and the Local Plan Review should also reflect those wishes, ensuring that future development is achievable, sustainable and meets the needs of residents and businesses alike.” There is significantly more detail on why BTC oppose development of the Green Belt in the full report which can be found here: http://www.burntwood-tc.gov.uk/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=d4b7f5d7-ebd8-4b28-bc68-2c3e1470c6cf

    It seems odd that Burntwood Action Group oppose the response given that it supports their view that the Green Belt should be protected and that there is no justification whatsoever for any change to the Green Belt boundary. The part of the response that references BAG is to urge caution to LDC with regards to ensuring the whole towns needs are met rather than just listening to those who shout the loudest. This is specifically in response to recent musings from BAG that Sankeys Corner should be abandoned as a town centre and largely turned over for housing. People repeatedly tell us that the few facilities we do have there need to be built on to provide a local community retail base. The needs of Burntwood’s residents and businesses are significantly more complex than just the Green Belt issue, BTC continue to work to meet the needs of all the Community as complex and contrasting as they may be.

  6. The comments from Jane above says it all about the Baggers. Haven’t got a clue and can’t even make a sensible point. How would she know if it’s boring if she hasn’t read it? Boring is irrelevant if it makes sense and answers the points, which it does. A typical response from someone who has lost an argument.

  7. I’d like to know if it’s TRUE or hearsay that any council houses being built in Burntwood are for the overflow of people in Birmingham that have been chucked out of their houses for bad behaviour etc etc. 49 years I’ve lived here and seen how Burntwood has gone from a beautiful quaint village to an over populated getting built up area and losing everything that’s dear to people round here. Knife crime will definitely rise as will other crime. Is this correct and if so when do we get this officially????

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