Campaigners produce video in fight to save playing fields

Birmingham residents fighting plans by developers to concrete over their playing fields have released a new video showcasing their concerns.

Persimmon Homes has put forward renewed proposals to build a total of 87 homes on the land on Barrows Lane in Yardley, which is currently managed by Sport for Life International on behalf of Central England Co-operative Ltd.

The housebuilder put forward similar proposals to Birmingham City Council last year but withdrew them at the last minute in response to a campaign by Yardley residents that began when the Co-op put the fields up for sale in 2013.

Gifted the land by the local Barrows family in 1920 under a covenant that it would always be used for the benefit of the local community, the Co-op locked off the land to the public in 2015 but its first planning application was rejected.

The new 15-minute video, Save our Fields, has been produced by the Yardley Community Protection Society to build on cross-party support for their efforts to save the site from development and return it to the community. The residents are using the film to tell their community story and help ensure that a third and final attempt at obtaining building consent is dismissed.

The Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Yardley Labour MP Jess Phillips and Liberal Democrat Yardley East Ward Councillor Deborah Harries are all interviewed, along with representatives from sports clubs, parents and young people who are all longing to make use of the land for sport and leisure.

When Andy Street as West Midlands Mayor and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) launched a five-year Natural Environment Plan for the region in 2021, he said: “Decades of polluting industry and expansive development on our greenbelt has forced wildlife out, but this plan aims to put a stop to the damage by protecting, restoring, and enhancing the region’s biodiversity for everyone’s benefit.”

One of the long-term aims of the plan is for everybody to have access to high quality green space within a 300-metre walk of their home.

The video’s aerial views give a fresh perspective on the playing fields as among the last remaining green spaces in an otherwise densely populated urban district, and close to some of Birmingham’s most historic medieval buildings.

The video slams what residents say are misleading claims by Persimmon of how its proposals will benefit the area. The criticisms include ignoring threats to the environment, refusing dialogue with Yardley residents and local sporting bodies, and holding back young people from enjoying healthy outdoor activities.

Fay Goodman, Chair of Yardley Community Protection Society, said: “We hope our new video, Save our Fields, will convince people that our wonderful playing fields are worth saving for the community. The WMCA’s overall mission statement is for a more prosperous, fairer, greener and healthier West Midlands. We wholeheartedly support these objectives – hence the need for us to fight and preserve our precious green spaces to enable that mission to be fulfilled.

“Like so many communities wanting to save their green spaces, we are up against greedy developers who have seen a piece of land and been prepared to wait years to buy and make a fat profit on it, when there are more than enough brownfield sites to meet demand for new housing.

“We may not have the funds that developers have to fight planning applications but what we do have as a community is passion, heart and the knowledge that we have truth on our side.”

Fay added: “The legacy of the Commonwealth Games is promoting sport, health and wellbeing, and bringing communities together. But where is the help? There is reportedly £60 million of underspend from the Commonwealth Games to give to charities for the benefit of communities. What better charity is there than saving our magnificent fields for sport, recreation and community wellbeing?”

The video Save our Fields is available to view by clicking on :