A great man visited Sandwell last Tuesday, The West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
The free event at the now festively decorated Oldbury Kremlin offered
“A chance for residents of Sandwell and the wider West Midlands, to come and ask Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, about the issues that matter to them in a relaxed Q & A format.”
I attended this event to ask Mr Street (aka Tonka the great), about the ludicrous Dudley port Supplementary planning document, to be discussed by Sandwell’s cabinet later this week.
Not only is this document a fraudulent land scam attempting to con potential developers/investors and other people that the housing allocation sites (not in Dudley Port) are wonderful, but that rattlechain lagoon and all its associated still toxic history can be condensed into one single bucket known as “the wet tip”.
I have not met Mr Street before but his friendly school teacherish demeanour was in stark contrast to many of the local elected in Sandwell.
A disappointing turn out was noted in that around just two dozen people filed into the empty council chamber for the meet and greet. Most notable was the lack of representation from Sandwell’s elected members. Where were they, or do they just boycott such events because their man didn’t win in the election that nobody wanted?
The Mayor was cordial and greeted almost everyone with a shake of the hand and accommodating smile. This was he stated a chance to demonstrate ” politics in the raw”, and so it would prove with a few bruising questions ranging from controversially allocating monies towards younger people instead of middle aged ladies in relation to concessionary travel passes and what he was doing to reduce homelessness.
My question concerned the land around rattlechain being promoted in “the garden city” nonsense by Sandwell council.
“Would your administration and the WMCA be comfortable giving grant aid money to this dodgy land scheme prospectus- the Dudley port so called “garden city” , when one of the site allocation sites that no one locally wants to see developed is registered to an off shore company based in Jersey?
Isn’t it a bit embarrassing that when one local MP is saying “end tax havens now”, that Sandwell council is actively promoting a dodgy land prospectus that would benefit a company registered in a tax haven?” Would you give money to benefit that company registered in Jersey,that’s the first part of my question?
By way of cutting a long story short, and one that I will go into in due course, the former brickworks area and Duport’s tip, as well as other surrounding land registry titles (which needs to be separated from rattlechain lagoon as it is not connected in any way), is “owned” 😆 by a company called “DENVER LIMITED” registered in Jersey.
The reference to the MP – Tom Watson was revealed recently when he unfurled a banner in West Bromwich in the presence of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn proclaiming “END TAX HAVENS NOW.”
It was also stated that Gordon Brown when also visiting the borough recently invited by Mr Watson stated that tax havens were “one of the greatest scandals of our times.” Quite!
So why then are Labour Sandwell promoting development opportunities for “Denver”?
This was Andy Street’s reply:
“Well, definitely polluted land is perhaps the important part of this. It’s my assumption of what you’re talking about here is the land remediation fund- which is designed specifically to deal with heavily polluted land, and again that is something that I am a strong believer in , that we have to bring that land back into use so that’s my guess what that is about.
Now any allocation of funding from that fund, we’ve been very clear; we’ve set the criteria for how it will be judged so no-one can say afterwards about the combined authority “you’ve inappropriately spent this.”
..and so any application would have to be measured against all of those criteria to find suitable value for money, and actually to know that the developer is of reputable quality.”
I then further elucidated on the central issue surrounding this site and asked about why Sandwell should have to accommodate more density of population, when it already has the highest number of people living in any of the Black country boroughs and the highest density per hectare. This is demonstrated by the 2011 census figures shown below- i.e Sandwell has 36 people per hectare compared with the West Midlands and National figure of just 4.
I provide relevant highlighted links to these claims as citations.
“This site, the one next to it is one of the most contaminated in Europe. It contains tens of tonnes of white phosphorus that has poisoned birds; systemically poisoned birds. There’s a long history associated with it, a long history of cover ups. But specifically in Sandwell, this is just a figure for you if you are not aware, it already has a density of population ; this is from the last census- 36 people per hectare of land. That compares nationally with 4 people per hectare in the West Midlands and nationally.
Can I ask therefore- why as a representative , our representative , our champion are you not going to the likes of Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire and telling those people they have got to give up their green belt land for housing, and that is where the new towns have got to be situated?”
Mr Street replied that “The answer is we are doing both.” He cited and example of the fund being used recently in Telford.
I note however that the population of Telford and Wrekin according to their council’s website was in 2016 just 169,400 – nearly half that of Sandwell .
I’ll leave people with the two graphics below showing a comparison of area size of Sandwell and Telford and Wrekin, and question if building just 500 new homes in the latter yet expecting more to be built in the former in just one tiny area- i.e “Dudley Port” is in any way “fair”.
Mr Street continued;
“Despite what you’ve said about density, I do believe that actually we have to tackle these brownfield contaminated sites. If we don’t, the bext generation will face exactly the same issues , and again I think it is a good thing that the combined authority and the devolution deal which I was a part of negotiating, got cash to do exactly that. Its hard, it’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do.
You made a quote where it sounds dreadfully contaminated and it should be examined and it’s not right that it should just sit there for another ten years.”
I then raised the issue that The Black Country Development Coporation had made similar platitudes during its lifetime back in the 1990’s yet had failed but Mr Street retorted that he couldn’t be held accountable for that but on this new devolution deal.
Julian Saunders (aka the Sandwell skidder who has been instrumental in uncovering gross corruption by councillors and officers within the rotten borough of Sandwell then pressed on the tax haven funding issue which the Mayor had not dealt with.
“The general point on that- (long pause), It’s not what one would hope for quite frankly, but I er, I don’t think we can rule it out just for that. We could set a criteria, I don’t think we’ve done it but I always hope and my record on this which I’ve made very clear- I’ve always said that companies must be domiciled here, must pay their tax here , that was the debate with amazon . So I think I’ve got good form on this but can’t actually rule something out in this of being able to apply for the fund.”
I have uploaded the full question and answer concerning this issue below. Click to listen.
Mr Street’s one hour appearance in Sandwell certainly couldn’t be described as a fact finding mission, but I hope he finds time to find out more about Rattlechain lagoon, the issues around it and the people who live around it who do not in any way want the ridiculous “garden city”. They are fully aware of the misery that was undertaken in the 1990’s despite promises from the BCDC and others that were utter piles of crap.
Is it really a good vision of suffering years of misery and blight to then be rewarded with greater population density by those who have no intention of ever living in such a place themselves?
People in this area are not going to see cartoon animals finding out about Christmas or bouncing up and down on trampolines whilst finding a friendly monster under their beds.
Mr Street needs to understand this situation before money is transferred to any shovels in the ground. Hopefully he will not be remembered as the man who gave a blank cheque to tax avoiders on behalf of the tax payer.
ABOVE ALL THE PEOPLE WHO CONTAMINATED THE LAND, OVERTIPPED WASTE THERE SHOULD PAY IN FULL FOR ANY REMEDIATION AND STUDIES.
In that regard “DENVER LIMITED” in Jersey is not as far removed from this as it would seem.
#STOP AND SMASH THE GARDEN CITY