16th Apr, 2021

Cheylesmore residents 'devastated' car park for new retirement apartments will 'encroach' on small city park

RESIDENTS in a Coventry suburb are deeply upset that plans granted for a new retirement apartments will result in the loss of an area of parkland.

An application for 30 retirement apartments in a three-storey building on land adjacent to Ebbw Terrace, Cheylesmore was approved by Coventry city planners last month.

Many residents who live nearby were shocked and alarmed to discover that an adjoining car park is to be built on an area of grassland, currently used as recreational space within Quinton Park.

Plans for the new development by Citizen Housing include landscaped areas, two communal areas and car parking spaces for 15 cars, with additional space for an ambulance/minibus. The planning application states the grassland on which the car park will be built is part of a brownfield site where a demolished former two-storey building comprising of sheltered housing once stood.

A petition signed by 178 residents was presented to planners by Cheylesmore ward councillor Roger Bailey. He said: “Local residents raised a petition which they asked me to support, calling on the development to be either delayed or scaled back, due to the impact it would have locally.

“It was seen as overdevelopment, with the third-floor flats looking into the back windows of houses in Woodstock Road, loss of green space for a car park and the increase of traffic on Cecily Road. The planning committee voted to support the development.”

But locals say a lack of prior consultation and inability to share the proposals among neighbours during lockdown resulted in many left unaware of the plans until it was too late. On January 25 they say several construction workers with a digger arrived unannounced and ploughed this green area leaving a large patch of mud.

Rafael Salguero, vice principal of a private language school, who lives opposite Quinton Park said: “I accept the case is lost but for me it’s the moral and ethics of it, and sadness of the loss of grassland. The planning committee say they are following government guidelines, but that does not make it right. The new build is three-storeys, three times the ‘footprint’, and involves turning parkland into car parking.

“There was a lack of publicity of the plans and the two lockdowns made it impossible to hold a local meeting, hold a paper petition or canvas residents on their doorsteps.”

Mr Salguero is also concerned about the noise and disruption of construction to neighbours. Like many people in lockdown, he is currently working from home and on Zoom calls to colleges and universities around the world during the daytime. He said: “On Monday January 25 out-of-the-blue a digger arrived despite the snow and frozen ground and spent the day churning up the site. As feared, the noise made working from home a strain, particularly that day as I had three online meetings overseas.”

Emilia and Ted Norrish, who also live opposite Quinton Park, greatly oppose the “encroachment” of parkland.

She said: “The Cheylesmore residents are devastated about the building plans and the dramatic, devastating ecological impact on the Park green belt and on the wildlife and on all humans.

“This part of the Park is favourite place for children to explore and to play, many people exercise here; yoga is popular, and joggers enjoy this particular corner of the park.

“Building on the Park land could imperil all such spaces in the whole city and beyond. The whole park was donated in 1913 to all, to enjoy, treasure and respect this beautiful natural area – a green space to be proud of, and focal to the local Cheylesmore heritage.”

Cheylesmore resident Roderic Dunnett, a journalist and former teacher at King Henry VIII School, wrote to the council saying: “The suggested plans allowing a private company to ravage part of Cheylesmore’s Quinton Park are nothing short of desecration. The destruction of something sacred. Its green spaces are something Coventry has particularly valued and treasured since the calamitous obliteration of the city centre in the last World War.

“Imagine if someone proposed building on a section of the Memorial Park. Or obliterating the life-enhancing wildlife of Swanswell Pool, and Lady Herbert’s Garden adjoining what remains of the historic City wall. Or a housing estate on outer Coventry’s historic showpiece, Coombe Abbey. How would we feel then? And now there is also a threat to King’s Hill on the Coventry (West Midlands) – Warwickshire border – one of the most enchanting spots on the city’s edge. What are we doing?

“Quinton Park is one of the smallest, yet it is an ecological gem, which yields a home to birdlife as special to Cheylesmore’s citizens, who shop at its intimate Cheylesmore Parade immediately opposite. Coventry City Council’s own website observes: ‘This attractive open park with natural spring fed pool on which live flocks of Canada Geese, Mallards, and many other water birds, and roadside flowerbeds’. To have greenery close at hand is one of Coventry’s most inspired characteristics: one in which post-war it led the country.

“There are ample other places in our otherwise proud city to which this deeply intrusive, alarming, and dismaying building work can be relocated. There seems to or minuscule consultation of those affected. Unforgivable.”

A spokesperson for Birmingham-based Citizen said: “We understand the concerns that residents have raised but we are committed to making sure that any loss of green space is compensated through investment.

“As part of the plans, which received unanimous approval from the council’s planning committee, we are providing an investment of £35k in the local area through a legal agreement with the council. This investment will be spent at the council’s discretion to improve the quality of the green space in the area.

“We also plan to make a significant investment in the landscaping of the site to enhance both its ecology and biodiversity contribution to the local environment.”

A paragraph entitled, ‘Impact on residential amenity’ within the planning committee report for the retirement flats says: “The loss of the open green area currently used for recreation is a concern to residents, however it is important to note that part of the site is previously developed and is physically separate from the adjoining park.

“Therefore, it is considered that it would not harm its functioning. The proposal makes provision for private amenity space with over 25% of the site being set aside for recreational amenity space in accordance with the principles of policy H8.”

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