Shirley Parkgate, a downmarket development, opened after 12 years of steady local opposition – not a 10 year row, as Enda Mullen knows full well. This scheme was inflicted by the council – its business partner – on a small suburb which already had at least six supermarkets. A more balanced account was given in the Mail by Annette Belcher.

Opening day

Opening day

The area has genuine needs; once the Co-operative store was forced to move, to make way for Parkgate, there were no retailers selling hardware and white goods. Quality clothing shops would have been welcomed – but need was not accepted as a planning criterion. As yet there are no signs that these needs will be met in Parkgate, There is not even a Primark – requested by the youngsters.

‘Opens’ is an overstatement: most of it is still a building site. When I asked why quality stores were not moving in – Marks and Spencer refused an invitation – a retail analyst told me that companies keen to share a site with John Lewis would not consider a development ‘led’ by Asda.

Housing for profit, not need

shirley park

solihull housing logoRegeneration or destruction? The development has used public parkland for private housing – said to be essential to make the scheme commercially viable. This, termed the ‘residential element’, will house no-one in real need on Solihull’s housing register.

It has moved the popular, purpose-built, accessible public library, paid for by the taxpayer, to a Parkgate ‘unit’ – for which the taxpayer now has to pay rent.

shirley library2

The development destroyed many trees in the park, including this oak circle.

ring of oaks shirley

The retailers in the High Street suffered a 50% drop in takings during the construction years. These four shops fared even worse; they were fenced off for months and appeared closed to the passerby – for most of the time no work was observed behind the railings.

shirley shops access blocked

But please come to Parkgate

Even those who have long seen the folly of it hope it will succeed, otherwise the centre of Shirley will become a huge derelict precinct.

So if you can face it, do roll up and spend money at Asda, JD Wetherspoon, Pizza Express, Prezzo, Perios, Starbucks, Shake Waffle and Roll, Loungers, Peacocks, 99p Stores, Mobile PC, Phones 4U, Capricorn Blinds and Greggs.