Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership is set to reform to drive forward regeneration in the town centre.
The partnership, made up of local stakeholders – those who can make a difference in the town centre, had its last meeting over twelve months ago. Few attended – a sure sign that things are not well.
One of the criticisms of partnership members was that the local authority was bypassing it on important issues – such as the declaration of an Enterprise Zone at the Waterfront and the implementation of a £10 million bus scheme for Merry Hill and no consultation on the ‘Portas’ proposals to support efforts to revive the town centre.
There is also a widespread feeling that the local authority is focusing on Dudley Town Centre (which definitely does need support) at the expense of other towns in need of help too. Brierley Hill has been largely left to its own devices.
With resources tightly stretched surely there is a need to work more closely together – to benefit from a common approach to local issues.
Discussions with the council have indicated that this is increasingly being recognised by members and officers alike. Hopefully a meeting will be called before the end of June to map a way forward.
A Stourbridge College Student has won a competition to design a logo for the Brierley Hill in Bloom Project. Taylor Margetts-Burt submitted her design in Spring last year following a feasibility report which was commissioned by Dudley Council.
The competition was judged by Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership which thought that all entries were a very high standard. Taylor’s design won out at it was “…colourful and distinctive and the options to change colours meant that the logo could be used by different elements for the project to create sub-identities”.
The Brierley Hill in Bloom project has received £5,000 of support from Brierley Hill Traders Association and Community First Brierley Hill. Work is now taking place to create an action plan to take the project forward with an implementation during 2014.
A £362,000 bid to the governments Local Sustainable Transport fund aimed at improving and encouraging walking and cycling in Brierley Hill has been successfully submitted by Dudley Council. A working party including Dudley Council, Dudley Primary Care Trust, Sustrans (the cycling organisation), Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership and Living Sreets has been set up to engage local views. A copy of the bid can be viewed below.
A website is being prepared under the strap line ‘I Get Around’. Marketing materials highlighting walking and cycling opportunities is being prepared for distribution to businesses, schools and community groups.
Feasibility work on new and improved walking & cycling routes connecting the surrounding residential catchment areas to Brierley Hill Centre is underway. Work is planned to commence next financial year. Locations for new cycle parking in Brierley Hill are also being looked at.
The team will be attending events during the coming year to encourage further cycling.
The March meeting of Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership heard of the £5 million funding bid towards a £10 million scheme deliver a step-change in bus user experience at Merry Hill Bus Station and on the wider Brierley Hill bus network.
It will address congestion that causes unreliability by focusing on pinch points. The key elements of the proposal are:
Brand new state of the art bus station, with 25% increase in capacity, full DDA compliance and high quality passenger information and facilities
Significant highway measures to remove delays and increase reliability for buses in the Brierley Hill area, including a dedicated bus only link and two bus lanes with bus gates. The work will include establish bus only lanes on the Boulevard and opening a bus only link from Merry Hill bus station to the Pedmore Road.
Segregation of buses from general traffic without loss of highway capacity
New bus stop infrastructure and RTI at key locations along strategic routes
New commercial multi-operator Smartcard (e-purse and bus)
Bespoke marketing and communications campaign
Workwise support to help 1,090 people into employment
£2.2.m investment in brand new euro 5 buses
On Vehicle Displays (Talking Buses) on strategic routes
A survey of shoppers and residents in Brierley Hill has revealed that there is a great affection for the town, but people feel that there is still work to be done to make improvements.
Addressing a meeting of Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership, on Tuesday 24th May, Shona Gilsenan, a volunteer with the Artspace and Brierley Hillness projects, explained that face to face interviews with shoppers in the High Street and other members of the community had taken place to help decision makers determine priorities and to guide new developments planned for the town. She said:
“On the positive side there were some important key messages.
“People liked the old buildings in the town and wanted new developments to reflect the best of the architecture already present.
“Most people come to the town centre on business. Interestingly many said that they never went to Merry Hill and preferred the local shops. The markets are a particular strength. One described Brierley Hill as a good typical Black Country town, whilst another said him came all the way from Halesowen as the best Black Puddings are sold on the High Street”.
But respondents also had suggestions for improvement. The frontage of many shops was depressing, the removal of trees was much lamented and there was a need for more flowers to make the area brighter. The lack of free car parking was also perceived as a problem as it limited shoppers’ time in the town.
In a separate survey of 74 primary school children 65% said that old buildings in the town should be preserved.
The Partnership agreed to ask for more details of the survey results and to request its High Street Working Party to look at ways of implementing suggested improvements.
For further information please contact Shona on firstname.lastname@example.org
The February meeting of the Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership received an update on parking issues in the town centre.
Concern had been expressed that parking on both sides of Bell Street South was making the road difficult to navigate. Engineers from the council pointed out that parking limits had been planned for the street as part of the new Venture Way proposals. However, local councillors had opposed the Bell Street proposal as they felt workers needed somewhere to park. The restrictions were therefore not advanced.
Concern about parking of private hire cars at the upper end of the High Street (near Concord Market) had also been expressed, with a view that this was damaging the economic health of that part of the town as passing custom had no space to pull in. It was confirmed that this area was not a taxi rank. Private hire vehicles had to be treated in the same way as any other vehicle and subject to the same enforcement.
An increase in the weight limit of commercial vehicles has meant that older bridges throughout the country have had to be reassessed for safety.
Unfortunately edges of bridges are not as strong as middle, thus, “accidental wheel loading” – when vehicles go up on the pavement – is problematic. To prevent this, higher kerbs and shuttle signals have to be installed.
Moor Street railway bridge falls into this category and work will be carried out soon.
Brierley Hill Area Action Plan – a key planning document which will guide future developments in the area – is reaching its final run in to adoption following an ‘Examination in Public’ held at Dudley Council House in December. Planners are now looking to formally adopt the plan this summer.
The proposed plan which will guide the creation of over 10,000 new jobs, a significant expansion of the Merry Hill Centre, the building of over 3,000 new homes in the area, and the introduction of more leisure and community facilities, was subject to questioning by Inspector Vincent Maher during a week of meetings and visits.
Community groups, council officials, traders, environmentalists, developers and landlords all attended the examination.
Overall the process was very positive – not a surprise given the amount of consultation that has taken place over the last decade.
Points of debate centred around how to improve public transport to the town, how to enhance the High Street, the impact of the introduction of car park charging at Merry Hill, how best to protect and enhance wildlife in the area and the role of manufacturing within the plan.
Mr Maher is now considering his report on whether the plan conforms to national requirements and is realistic in its delivery prospects. His report should be available at the end of this month, February.
All being well the plan should be ready for adoption this summer and the hard work of implementing it will gain a further boost.
The implementation of regeneration plans in Brierley Hill and the Black Country moved a step closer with the ‘Joint Core Strategy’ examination in public by planning inspectors in July.
The Joint Core Strategy is a key plan which sets out how the Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils plan to work together to regeneration the area. It states how the four councils and other partners will work together to tackle challenges included providing new homes, creating new jobs, improving the environment, and enhancing transportation in the region whilst driving up educational standards.
Statutory Local plans – such as the Brierley Hill Area Action Plan – have to fit in with the joint core strategy.
A meeting of Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership (2nd September) heard from senior Dudley Council planners that the enquiry had gone well. Inspectors had seemed impressed with the regeneration plans drawn up jointly by the four Black Country boroughs and the unity of the four authorities. The inspectors’ report is due in October and the Brierley Hill Area Action Plan examination in public is set to take place in December of this year.
More information on the Joint Core Strategy can be found at: