By Jonathan Webb and Alexander Butler
08:44 10 April 2023, update 10:29 10 April 2023
- EXCLUSIVE: Developer sparks fury with ‘urban oasis’ plan in Bournville Forest
- But residents are used to pushing back on developers’ attempts to build there
A consortium of companies has sparked fury in a British village famous for its Cadbury chocolate factory over plans to cut down historic trees and build ‘eco-friendly houses’ instead.
Bournbrook Secret Woods’ plan for an ‘eco-village’ has angered residents of Bournville, Birmingham, after it was revealed that 70 historic trees would be felled to accommodate eco-homes, a treetop walkway, parking and a large community center.
Residents, who have fought plans for houses and telephone masts in the woods, thought the plan was an ‘April fool’s joke’ after discovering the consultation website on April 1, but quickly realized it was genuine and have since appealed to Birmingham City Council Councilor Mary Locke. to intervene.
The consortium says the plan will “regenerate a poorly managed, long forgotten and overgrown forest into an urban oasis of biodiversity”.
But locals hit back and claimed the area was already a “perfect ecological environment” with a rich diversity of foxes, squirrels, hawks and butterflies.
Ria, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said: “The area is already a perfect ecological environment.
“We see foxes sunning themselves in our garden and squirrels visit us every day – we’ve even seen harrier hawks visit our garden. How can anyone think that destroying all this natural beauty is ecological? »
Residents also said the consortium’s claim that the forest is a “hive of anti-social behavior” with habitual fly dumps and illegal tree-cutting is false.
The land was purchased by Bournbrook Secret Woods Ltd for £75,000 in November 2022.
The company is made up of James Hewson, Lee Blake, and Melissa Jones, none of whom appear to live in Bournville.
The Bournville Eco Village website states: “We plan to build a world-class ecovillage and a totally unique education and community center that will attract thousands of visitors each year – boosting the local economy in our community.
“We will regenerate a poorly managed, long forgotten and overgrown forest into an urban oasis of biodiversity nestled between historic Bournville and artisan Stirchley.”
Residents are also concerned that thousands of visitors drawn to the eco-village community center will turn their quiet road where children often ride bikes into a busy one.
Some have claimed that the green space at the top of Sparrey Drive, where children play during the summer, would also be lost to the eco-village.
There have been many attempts to build on the land over the years, from houses to telephone towers, and every request has been turned down by residents.
Sparrey Drive, with its Hawkes Close and Lea Yield Close branches, was created on the site of Cadbury’s once busy siding in 1985 – the last chocolate train having departed some seven years earlier.
Bournbrook Secret Woods was asked to comment, but did not respond.
The Cadbury brothers moved their chocolate business to the area from the back streets of Birmingham and opened the Cadbury factory in 1879.
Soon after, they founded the model village of Bournville which takes its name from the nearby Bourn River and the French word “ville”, which means village.
In 1895, 143 cottages were built for factory employees on a total of 140 acres of land.
They were meant to be of “decent quality” with spacious rooms and good sanitary facilities – the antithesis of Birmingham’s crowded slums.
The factory had a field next door where men were encouraged to play cricket and football as well as a garden and play area for women, according to Cadbury.
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