Lapal Canal and Selly Oak Development Update24 October 2013
On 17th October, Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee approved an outline planning application made by the Harvest Partnership (key constituent members being J Sainsbury and Land Securities) to redevelop the old Battery Park site at Selly Oak. The site includes the route of the former Dudley No 2 Canal, now generally known as the Lapal Canal, and the area around its former junction with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
The approval has ended a two-month discussion between the Council and Harvest after plans to redevelop the Lapal Canal were removed from the original application. Blaming the recession and other commitments, Harvest felt they could no longer afford to reinstate the canal as initially planned. Birmingham City Council was not happy with the amended plans and deferred a decision on the application. This, along with pressure from other interested parties such as Lapal Canal Trust, caused Harvest to rethink and they proposed an additional £767,000 expenditure on the development.
IWA and local waterway groups had lobbied the Council to provide a better outcome more favoured to restoration of the canal, and had held a boat rally and cultivated media attention and political support to draw attention to the risk of a major blight on the restoration proposals. Subsequent to this pressure, Harvest amended its planning application to include:
- Protection of a realigned route for a re-built Lapal Canal
- Construction of a concrete channel through the undercroft of the new Sainsbury store
- Piling of the remainder of the channel to the recently constructed bridge under Birmingham’s outer ring road
- A winding hole on the opposite side of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to a new junction to be created adjacent to the Bristol Road Bridge.
These plans for the canal are an improvement on the first amendment but are still a compromise as they do not include much of the work that Harvest originally planned to undertake. The construction of the junction and the lining of the bed of the piled section would still need to be funded if the Lapal Canal is to be fully restored. Towards this, Harvest has offered a further £500,000 to a "canal based organisation" by means of a, yet to be signed, s106 agreement between Harvest and the Council. If a further £1million could then be found to complete the funding of this part of the restoration, Harvest has indicated that it would include the work in its contract programmed for completion in 2017. However, there appears to be no likely prospect of these funds materialising and with the application approved there is little leverage to obtain any further support from the developers.