Minutes of the May meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society

Minutes of the meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society held on Monday 18th May 2015 at St Michael’s Church commencing at 6pm.


Joy Cooper, Stephen Dunn, John James, Betsy Lafferty, Tim Lee, Lorna Morrison, Maggie Norton, Jenny Sunter, Tim Sunter, Dennis Whittaker, Norma Whittaker.


Pat Cobern, Rachel Harris, Zafar Islam, John Martin

Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting had been circulated and were agreed as a true record.


JS gave informed the meeting of the correspondence received:
* NCVO general election briefing on the impact of the recent election on voluntary organisations
* Civic Voice weekly newsletter including details of the work on war memorials
* Information on the Community Rights pilot
* Details of NCVO workshops for volunteers

SD asked about whether Civic Voice had a website that he and other members could refer to. JS confirmed that this was the case.

Treasurer’s Report

DW gave the treasurer’s report:
* Cash in hand £53.46
* Bank account £1323.97
* Less money held on behalf of SNOW -£985.75
* Total £391.68

Organisation Sub

It had been agreed at the last meeting that an ‘organisation sub’ should meet to plan the future direction and activities of the Society. SD, TL, LM, TS, and DW had subsequently met at the Bull & Bladder (venue purely to support local industry).

Key points from the meeting were:

  • Need to have a balance in the Society’s activites between celebrating the past, action in the present and influencing the future.
  • Potential speakers with a historic perspective could be on the topics of Round Oak, Marsh & Baxter, the history of brickmaking in the area. To determine what actions the Society could take to improve Brierley Hill engagement with Dudley MBC cabinet members would be a positive step.
  • Partnership working with the public, private and voluntary/community sectors has the potential to achieve shared goals in the town.

Key actions to follow up were:
* To extend the Brierley Hill in Bloom meeting on 3rd June to involve the organisation sub and Christmas Festival team would be a good forum to start to pull partners together.
* Brierley Hill Civic Society to consider its priorities for action at its next meeting (i.e. tonight)
* Establish relationship with BHCF as there did seem to be overlapping objectives
* The chase Dudley Archives re a visit to the new facility with a chance to view materials in the Brierley Hill collection.
* To establish a programme of speakers.
* To consider whether the Society can offer any help to make the council’s forums more effective.

TS reported that following this meeting he had made contact with the archives. The Society’s meeting on Monday 20th July would now take place at the archives and we would receive a tour and then the opportunity to look at Brierley Hill materials. There would be a pass through charge from the archives of £4 and a minimum total charge of £40. It was agreed that this should be publicised as far and wide as possible to ensure maximum attendance.

Future activities

Following on from the organisation sub meeting the Society had been asked to bring ideas for future activities for the Society. The following ideas were suggested:
* Continued engagement with NHR and DMBC to try and get some regeneration activity moving in the area.
* Presentation of a replica of the Gibbons/Jordan painting for display in the town centre. Andy Gray of DCVS had indicated an interest for it to be hung in the Civic Centre.
* Restoration of the Brierley Hill war memorials
* Resolution of the difficulties with access to and use of Lawyers Field (Friends of Marsh Park are leading on this). There was talk of whether the plaque commemorating the opening was still in the park.
* Litter picking events together with anti-graffitti activities. Questions arose about the best way to go about this and advice from DMBC should be sought. The litter strewn state of canals in the area was also highlighted.
* The introduction of weight limits on roads which are being used inappropriately by heavy vehicles, North Street for example.
* Replacement trees for those that once flourished in the High Street
* The renaming of Venture Way to something more appropriately reflecting the history of the town
* A ‘blue plaque’ scheme celebrating some of the achiements of the town
* A cultural regeneration programme to attract more visitors to the town centre. A brass band playing in Marsh Park was one suggestion put forward.
* Getting the publicly visible clocks in the town working – St Michael’s and The Moor Centre were mentioned.
It was suggested that the organisation sub on 3rd June could pick up some of these ideas and put meat on the bones (thought: is there a vegetarian equivalent for this phrase?)

Brierley Hill in Bloom

TS reported than the planters were now fixed on Venture Way; lamp post baskets were suggested for along the High Street and it was aimed to have these in place for the winter planting; the plants for the summer had been grown and it was planned to put them out early in June.

Brierley Hill Christmas Festival

TS had met with AG from DCVS. AG was keen to get involved as it was a potential project for the Civic Hall. He would be attending the meeting on 3rd June.

DMBC review of criteria for locally listed buildings

A spokesperson from the planning department had now agreed to come to the next meeting to talk through the implications of this. There were some concerns that the changing of the criteria might weaken the ability to protect historic buildings in the town.

Regeneration update including planning matters

DW updated the meeting on progress.
A date for further engagement with NHR and DMBC was awaited. At the previous meeting priorities of making a pedestrian link between the High Street and Merry Hill together with environmental improvements in the High Street had been identified. Indications had been given that funding may be available for the link but it was doubtful whether funds might be there for the High Street.
Intu were interested in development of the Daniels Land site for residential purposes whilst Rachel Harris had put forward the idea for a white water centre.
DW was also creating a planning database to keep track of proposed developments in the town. He gave an exhaustive list of live applications:
* Two applications for residential and offices adjacent to Red Peppers including the former Doug Holmes Taylors.
* The Dock and Iron in Delph Road was saved following objections to its demolition by the council as the building is on the Heritage Assetts Register. Instead the proposal has been amended to keep the pub and to use the car park as a van hire centre.
* 81 Church Street – the former Radio Shack building – application to demolish and build one dwelling.
* Housing proposals for the former RDF site. The environment agency has no objections subject to safeguards being put in place. They had also expressed they concern with respect to the site being suitable for a waste site.
* ASDA car park for a self service filling station. Members expressed their concern that this ran counter to the AAP for the area, would undermine the pedestrian link to the area and would not be appropriate to front on to the proposed public square.
* Arc Alloys building on Moor Street adjacent to Foxdale drive. Two applications had been submitted for residential but problems remained about access to the site due to the hump backed bridge.
* The Plough has a residential planning permission and was sold at auction for £57,000. Work is presently taking place on the site.
* The former Alma Pub has an application for five flats upstairs, three on the first floor and two on the second floor.
* The Cottage Spring in Mill Street has had an application to turn it into a vets passed.
* The former Black Country Stoves shop on High Street has been approved for a launderette.
* HVC supplies in Bull Street has had an application for five homes agreed. An earlier application for six homes had been rejected because of lack of parking facilities.
* The former Round Oak Pub had been approved for a home improvements store on the ground floor and one flat upstairs.
* Harts Hill bus station – adjacent to hazardous chemical plants had had an application for a supermakret withdrawn as well and an application for 45 homes withdrawn.

DW is creating a 3 year database of applications to enable further close monitoring.

Any Other Urgent Business

There was no other urgent business.

The meeting closed at 7.30pm.

The exciting new vision for Brierley Hill…from 1944!

In March 1944 Brierley Hill Urban District Council received a proposed master plan for the area.  It presents a fascinating insight into how the town’s future was envisaged by leading dignitaries.  It is interesting to see how the plan influenced the town as it is today.  Below are some of my thoughts and the full article for the County Express.

What do you think?

1944 Master Plan Brierley Hill

  • The plan is the first recorded proposal for the new road in Brierley Hill which eventually opened as Venture Way in 2008 – a mere 64 years after the original idea was put forward to the Council. It remains open to debate whether this has resulted in the High Street becoming “…  a convenient and pleasant by way where shopping, amusements, and business activities could be carried on in comfort without danger from passing traffic.”
  • In recent years considerable debate has taken place over the Western Orbital proposal for a road to the West of the Black Country conurbation. Here, the 1944 visionaries discuss how hard it is to bypass the Amblecote Wolverhampton road – their concerns on this turned out to be correct as the Western Orbital was abandoned 12 years ago.
  •  The plan recognised that Brierley Hill is made up from distinct local communities. Building on this it is envisaged developing new homes around “existing nuclei”. This seemed to have been an effective part of the plan – as evidenced by the “new” community centres at Brockmoor, Kingswinford, Wordsley and Quarry Bank.
  • The illustration of the master plan for Brierley Hill town centre shows housing to the West.
  • This aspect of the plan was implemented through a “slum clearance” program lasting until the mid-1960s. The most visually striking example of this is the Chapel Street Flats. But Cottage Street, Level Street, Fenton Street, and Albion Street were all cleared. This has the unintended side-effect of damaging trade in the High Street. By the late 1950s traders were complaining about the “Exodus” of residents which had hit their businesses. They were looking forward to the building of the new flats at Chapel Street. All of this a quarter of a century before the development of the Merry Hill Centre.
  •  One of the biggest surprises was the proposal to use Marsh Park for the Civic Centre. This was to include council offices, a police station and a fire station. The idea was implemented almost fully – but at the other end of the town where the Civic Centre stands as evidence today.

Her is a transcript of the full story from the County Express, March 1944:

Approved by Brierley Hill Council

A report on post-war housing and reconstruction, prepares for Brierley Hill Urban District Council by their town planning consultant, Mr T. Alwen Lloyd and Mr H. Jackson, was adopted by the Council at their meeting on Monday.
The plan of reconstruction is a very extensive one, and has been worked out in some detail.
Cllr J. N. Hickman remarked that Brierley Hill was one of the first towns to move in that direction, and they would long have reason to be proud that at least in that one corner of the world there would be a brighter, healthier, and happier place in which to live.


It was reported that at an extraordinary meeting of the Public Works, Housing and General Purposes Committee on March 6, presided over by the Chairman (Cllr Hickman), the report of the councils Town Planning consultants, Messrs T. Alwyn Lloyd, P.P.T.P.I. and H. Jackson, F.R.I.B.A. was received. Mr Lloyd explained the principles which had guided his colleague and himself in the preparation of the report, and explain generally thereon, and afterwards he and Mr Jackson replied to points raised by various members.
The committee recommended that the report and recommendations be generally approved, and that the broad principles as to zoning, communications, open spaces, etc be included in the Council’s town planning scheme: also the Chairman and the Clerk of the Council consider what effective steps could be taken in regard to the publicity of the proposals. The Clerk explained that, with regard to the proposed Civic Centre in the Marsh Park, the conveyance to the Council contains a covenant restricting the use of the path the purposes of a public park and recreation grounds. He has been in communication with Messrs. Marsh and Baxter Ltd, and read a letter from the company stating that they would be prepared to waive the restriction to enable the Civic Centre to be constructed.


At Monday’s Council meeting, Cllr Hickman presented a summary of the report, which was as follows:
The report, with the accompanying maps refers to an outline planning scheme for the development of the urban district after the war, with the intention that after this has been duly considered by the Council, subject to any modification that may be decided on, the proposals shall automatically be embodied in the statutory planning scheme for the whole area. The present urban district comprises 5932 acres, with an estimated population in 1939 46,000. The district was only formed in 1934 by the amalgamation of the old Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank, and Kingswinford authorities. It contains a number of important industries of varied character. Existing development is of a dispersed order, consisting of communities that have grown up separately, and in consequence there is not the same cohesion as would have occurred if Brierley Hill had grown as one large concentration, such as one usually finds in other industrial towns.


The report recommends that advantage should be taken of the dispersed character of development by making the several parts of the district into better communities in the full sense, including the requested open spaces, shops, schools, communal facilities, and so on. Concurrently with this replanning of the outer areas, the central part of Brierley Hill proper has received close attention and a number of important improvements are recommended.
Roads: Owing to heavy congestion of traffic through the built-up area, it is evident that there must be traffic relief by new bypasses and other improvements in main road communications. The classified road A461  is a case in point, and the route for a bypass south of Brierley Hill is suggested from the direction of Stourbridge, avoiding Lye and continuing to Dudley, with a cross connections to the centre of Brierley Hill and other key points.
One of the chief recommendations is an internal bypass relieving the heavy traffic through the centre of Brierley Hill, by way of Church Street and High Street. This bypass or relief road would run immediately to the east of the High Street, through the old property and streets that in any case will have to be redeveloped before long. The internal bypass will include dual carriageways, service roads, with all necessary roundabouts and improvements at Street junctions. Alongside the relief road the future central bus station and car park for Brierley Hill have been placed.


Under this scheme, to be in accord with modern techniques for closely built-up areas, it is recommended that the High Street shopping and business zone should be treated as a precinct, kept free of heavy and fast through traffic, which would be diverted along the internal bypass. The High Street would then become a convenient and pleasant bye-way where shopping, amusements, and business activities could be carried on in comfort without danger from passing traffic.
Regarding the other chief classified road A491, running from Amblecote in the direction of Wolverhampton, it has not been found impossible to bypass this entirely, but suggestions are made for the drastic widening and improvement of the existing highway through Wordsley and Kingswinford.   Advantage has been taken of certain existing roads there for getting traffic relief, and the other important suggestion is for a through road to be constructed just east of the Kingswinford Wordsley crossroads, which could be undertaken as part of the post-war development of that area. There are also schemes put forward for improving the lateral routes via Bromley Lane and Brierley Road, Buckpool. That method would have the merit of avoiding a new north to south route through what is now largely open country of awkward level.
Future patterns of the urban district: there is particular emphasis on securing green belts and wedges of open land between and around the existing communities at Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank, Wordsley, Kingswinford, wall heath, and Pensnett, instead of these being linked up by a continuing process of ribbon development along the highways.  Each of these sub-centres comes in for separate treatment, and proposals are made for the location of community centres, to comprise full facilities for shopping, education, health, youth activities, amusements and open space.


The location for post-war housing, which naturally looms large in the Council’s programmes, has received detailed attention, and the report makes ample provision for new housing estates in suitable localities.  The principle followed has been to group these around existing nuclei so as to avoid sporadic disposition of housing, and conserve public services.  The new and old development would thus form compact communities where the residents will find scope for their social and cultural activities, as well as me housing provision.
The future of agriculture in the district has not been overlooked, and in appropriate places rural zones are included, in which farming, market gardening, and similar pursuits would continue. In the outlying portions of the district there will be opportunities for estate development of more open densities, so that houses of various types and sizes can be erected to suit public requirements. Special attention has been devoted to conserving the best soil for agriculture and horticulture, bearing in mind the fact that in pre-war years a great deal of this was sacrificed to uncoordinated building development. Effort should be made also to save all existing amenities and pleasant countryside still to be found within the urban district.
Industries: the district has suffered widely from the scars of past industrial activity. Proposals are made for treatment of the derelict sites, clearance of old debris, and levelling up tips and unsightly dumps, so that these can be brought into better use under the post war plan. There are recommendations for the extension of existing industries and for providing sites for new industries in certain areas. The continuing prosperity depends so much on industry that steps should be taken to retain the cooperation of industrialists and businessmen in securing a more orderly and efficient background to their activities in the future.


Civic Centre: Owing to the urgent need  for municipal buildings, steps were taken prior to the war to examine suitable sites, and preliminary proposals were explored. However, the authors of the report were asked to review the whole position and to advise the council on the most suitable location for the new civic centre. After pursuing their enquiries they came to the conclusion  that by far the best site for this purpose is Marsh Park and the land immediately adjoining it. This stands at the highest part and in the centre of Brierley Hill, where an imaginative scheme for public buildings grouped around formal gardens and other features on the hillside would dominate the town, and constitute a very fine scheme. This would include the clearing of some of the old properties and improving the access to Marsh Park up the slopes from several sides.
Redevelopment areas: Proposals are made for taking advantage for drastic replanning of these as occasion arises. One such area lies between the back of High Street and Moor Street,  and the railway. The plan includes for realignment and opening out of the streets for future buildings, including a better approach to and a new Brierley Hill station. There are other areas of this description which come within the replanning scheme.


Appreciative reference is made to the existing public open spaces, that these will be quite insufficient for post-war needs, and it is recommended that 150 to 200 additional acres should be secured. The chief proposal put forward is for obtaining an extensive area of central park belt. This would run from the north end of Middlepool  through the heart of the district, comprising old works, tips, pools, and waste lands as far as Buckpool,  where the park belt  would join the proposed rural zone. It would have incalculable amenity value and would avoid, as so often occurred in other towns, the indefinite extension of building over all land near the centre. The layout of this park built would give great scope for ingenuity and creating attractive features by the clearance of industrial debris,  afforestation  and planting of ornamental trees.   In it there would be fine opportunity for laying out large recreation grounds games pitches, playfields, and swimming baths. The park belt would enable pedestrians to walk through pleasant surroundings from one end of the district to the other, uninterrupted by main road traffic and rows of buildings.
All proposals in this report relating to the main roads will be submitted to the County Council.

The report was illustrated by a series of maps showing the general proposals, the Brierley Hill central replanning and civic centre and the neighbourhood planning of the five sub centres.
These were displayed around the Council Chamber.


Cllr Hickman said the meeting of the Public Works Committee was extraordinary in more ways than one. First, because of the most important and far-reaching proposals ever presented for consideration, and also for the remarkable unanimity and goodwill. He thought they would probably have to make adjustments to the proposals, which would take 50 years to complete, but some essential features could take place immediately after the war. Whilst the Council’s secrets should be safeguarded, he thought it would be interesting to exhibit some of the drawings in the town, and to publish the brochure.


The chairman (Cllr H Haden, JP)  said the adoption by the Council of the broad outline and general principles of the experts’ town planning and post-war reconstruction proposals marked an important step forward, and “vista of progress and development for their area. Big tasks lay ahead for that and future councils: tasks with commensurate opportunities. Time, money, energy, and enterprise would be required to give practical effect to the blueprint prepared by Messrs Lloyd and Jackson.   He expected the ratepayers would require to give their endorsement as the programme unfolded, but he had little doubt that general support and cooperation would be readily accorded, seeing that the object of the recommendations was to provide more houses, much-needed amenities, better communications, and improvement in the general conditions and layout of Brierley Hill urban district. “Let us hope” said Cllr. Haden, “that by reason of what in due time will be accomplished present and future generations may concede that in the year 1944 the members and officials of the Council showed courage, initiative and vision.”

Country Express March 1944