public transport

Will the sale of BCC land affect railway stations in Moseley & Kings Heath?

by Claire Spencer

Over the last few weeks, questions have been raised over whether the sale of Birmingham City Council land near Bordesley railway station will have an impact on plans to reopen railway stations in Moseley and Kings Heath, as well as in several other locations around Birmingham. Some residents have been worried that the sale will act as further disincentive to reopen the stations.

Local Labour Party members – including the councillors – are in favour of reopening the stations in Moseley & Kings Heath. I haven’t yet met a resident that isn’t, come to think of it. So before the Cabinet made their decision to sell the freehold, Councillor Martin Straker-Welds had several discussions with Birmingham Property Services, to find out what impact it would have.

Firstly, let’s establish the site we’re talking about. The wider site is located along Bedford Road and is bounded by Trinity Terrace and Camp Hill. The Council freehold ownership is indicated by an arrow:

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Prior to the sale being agreed, the site was let on a 75 year lease with effect from 1976 with 38 years left to elapse. The land is already developed and in use. The tenant – Sulzer Dowding and Mills – had indicated to their landlord (the current leaseholder) that they would have to relocate to find a site that was more suitably configured, unless the landlord was able to reconfigure the current site. The landlord was unable to borrow the required funds against a 38-year lease – hence their request to BCC to purchase the freehold.

The second part of the map above shows the current line and the potential new line (marked in green). This indicates that – in order to realise the new connection – that other land (which already belongs to the same landlord) would need to be compulsorily purchased anyway if the reopening of the stations was to go ahead. 

Birmingham Property Services have summarised the two possible scenarios thus:

1. The Council retains its freehold land: Any scheme would still need to compulsorily acquire the long leasehold interest. It would also then need to acquire the Council’s freehold interest (voluntarily or by compulsory purchase order (CPO)), then acquire by CPO the required land from the landlord’s freehold interest on either side.

2. The Council sells its freehold interest: Any scheme would then seek to place a CPO the required land from the landlord. There would no longer be a need for BCC to be included in the CPO order for that land.

If the Council had held onto the freehold, they would still be unable to control or influence that land for another 38 years. In order to end the lease earlier, they would have needed to negotiate with the landlord.

So in the short term – and while there is still uncertainty as to when the project could go ahead – it makes a lot of sense to safeguard the jobs that that site supports.

For us in Moseley & Kings Heath, our task is to focus on getting our railway stations. Centro indicated in their draft strategy that the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum wished for the Camp Hill chords development to commence in the next control period (2014-2019), and to continue into the subsequent control period (2019-2024).

If you would like to find out more about this – and what the next steps for any local campaigns might look like – Chris Tunstall, Director of Sustainability, Transportation and Partnerships (BCC) and Toby Ratcliff, Rail Development Manager (Centro) will be taking questions at the next Moseley Forum meeting on July 1st (7pm; Moseley Exchange). These meetings are open to the public, so please attend.

Newsletter: Where are our trains?

The members of the Moseley & Kings Heath Labour are unanimous in their support of reopening the Moseley & Kings Heath railways stations – but we were surprised at the strength of feeling during the local elections.

As such, Councillor Martin Straker-Welds, now joined by our 2012 candidate Lisa Trickett, have been investigating some practical ways to make this a higher priority among decision-makers. This has been touched on in a recent blog post, but we have produced a simplified version for a leaflet, which will be distributed across Moseley & Kings Heath ward in the coming weeks.

The leaflet also introduces Lisa, who has now been running street surgeries with Martin Straker-Welds for several weeks now. If you would like Lisa and Martin to come to your street, or to run a surgery at your organisation, please leave a comment below, or email us on mkhlabour@gmail.com.

If you would like to see the leaflet, we have uploaded it here.

Moseley & Kings Heath railway stations update

At the full council meeting on Tuesday June 14th, Councillor Martin Straker-Welds raised the question of reopening the Moseley & Kings Heath railway stations with the Cabinet Member for Transportation, Councillor Huxtable. In the run-up to the local elections in May, it was clear that the reopening of the stations was a really important issue to the citizens of Moseley and Kings Heath.

Councillor Huxtable emphasised his support for the scheme, and said he was investigating the possibility of a Regional Growth Fund bid in order for the necessary infrastructure, including the ‘Camp Hill Chord’, so that the trains could be brought into Moor Street Station (the current line goes into New Street Station, but there isn’t enough capacity to reinstate a service that terminated there).

He added that he was aiming for the scheme to be part of the 2014-2019 control period. This is by no means confirmed, but is certainly something to work to.

You may also be interested in this report, which illustrates all the potential schemes which are competing to be approved in the 2014-2019 control period, and a list of potential drivers and constraints. One of the more worrying ones is that the lack of rolling stock will need to be taken into account: i.e. Centro will need to purchase more trains in order to reopen our line.

Challenges notwithstanding, Councillor Straker-Welds and Labour remain committed to reopening the stations, and are putting together the strongest case possible. We’d love to know your thoughts, particularly if you have any constructive suggestions for the business case for reopening the line, or any other evidence that will help this to become reality.

Ask Martin:

Martin Straker-Welds is hoping that you will vote for him in the local elections on May 5th – and he has met a lot of residents in his time as a Labour member. But he hasn’t got to everyone, so we on the campaign team have been sourcing questions from Twitter. Martin has answered the first set below – but if you have a question, or want to follow up on one of Martin’s responses below, leave a comment below!

Why Labour?

Labour and its members have always been champions for social justice – and this is particularly true at local level. As a branch, our members work tirelessly for the world around them – that’s something that I wanted to be a part of, and have been for some years now. I have no illusions about how difficult it will be, but I believe Labour is the best mechanism for defending our communities, bringing resilience from uncertainty, and working towards the sort of city we’d love to live in – every hour of every day, regardless of our income. The coalition has reduced the electorate’s choice: locally, nationally, you vote yellow, you get blue. Labour is the only party that seems to care about employment for everyone who wants it, including young people, who are currently up against it!

What will I offer as a councillor?
A fresh vision of Moseley & Kings Heath, and its role in Birmingham – and I want everyone who has ideas and drive to be involved. Indeed, I know there is no other way, this is our home, and we all deserve a chance to shape it. I will also fight tooth and nail to protect our communities from the excesses of the coalition’s cuts. I do not accept the wholesale butchery of jobs and services, it is not the only way to manage the economy responsibly. I am prepared to stand up for Moseley & Kings Heath. If you vote for me – this is what you’ll get. Vote red get red!

What are the good and bad things about Moseley & Kings Heath ward?
Great place to live. A cosmopolitan community. Super spots to eat and drink. But the roads are too narrow for the density of traffic. That is why I was opposed to the Meteor Ford development and I was totally committed to the inspiring ‘Save Moseley Village’ campaign. Also, I would like to see a twenty mph on roads where schools are located.

It’s a safe place to live – but crime and fear of crime are issues for residents, and both of those things are important to me. I have been really impressed with community policing, and I worry that the cuts will undo what the police and community have achieved.

What will I work to improve?
Residents want safe clean street that are serviced according to need. I would keep an eagle eye on the potholes, poor pavements and litter that seem to bedevil the streets (particularly in parts of Kings Heath) – because I want people to take joy in getting out and about. On that note, I would also want to make sure that all  communities have access to better and safer roads.

Long term I would what to campaign for better facilities for youth and adult services – people dear to my heart, as a recovering teacher. They have been under-resourced for too long now, and deserve better.

If you could change one thing overnight, what would it be?
Free public transport for everyone! But if I can’t have a miracle: more consumer representation of the bus company boards, to improve bus service in the city. You know as well as I – if you live in Moseley or Kings Heath, and want to use public transport, you need your 50, 11, 35, 76, 1, 2, 3 (have I missed any?) to be running on time, to have adequate capacity at peak, and to be clean and safe. It’s not much to ask.

What do you think of the BCC Cycling Strategy?
It paints a pleasant picture, but it’s thin on details – where are the dates, the costs? Where are the maps, the phases? We need more than a picture, we need a plan…and I don’t think the strategy is there yet. I would certainly like to be more concrete, more ambitious – and I don’t think local members (many of whom are keen cyclists) will let me be otherwise!

Are there any plans to bring a train service to Moseley/ Kings Heath? I know there’s a line, and I think there’s a station in Kings Heath but no trains! Reopening this line would ease traffic congestion and help protect the environment.
Adding to what Claire said in the comments, I am in complete agreement with the popular demand for the reopening of Moseley and Kings Heath stations. It could make a real difference to traffic and transport for residents and contribute to a more ecologically sustainable future for the community.

However, given the financial constraints and the massive loss of local and national jobs and services, I would caution against raising the hopes of residents that anything can be done in a hurry, given the costs. But I would work closely with the members in Tyburn ward (Castle Vale) to keep the pressure on to get those chords built.

I also want to see improvements in the bus services. If anything can be done to reduce the costs and promote greater use of public transport, I’d be really happy to support it. When I look down the narrow roads of Moseley and Kings Heath I see a stream of cars, sometimes parked down both sides of the road. People value the freedom to use their own vehicles for business and pleasure. But if anything can be done to persuade residents to leave their cars and take to the buses and trains, it should be done. Cost is a major factor. That is why I would support subsidies to make public transport less expensive to potential users.

Finally, I would be interested to know if there is any mileage in piloting school buses, along the lines developed in Manchester. Would that ease the rush hour traffic along roads and outside school gates? I think it’s worth investigating.

Can you go into a little bit more detail regarding your vision for Moseley & Kings Heath?

My vision is of a community that is constantly being regenerated, where all residents are proud to live and work, and where a range of support services are available to all people, regardless of age. In practical terms, if I were elected, I would focus on the most vulnerable in our community in the near term – cuts to social and home care services, as well as Sure Start centres and youth services will quickly be felt, and I’d need to be making the case in Council House for extra funding and support-in-kind, and ensuring that people are aware of the options available to them.

I also want to see a more sustainable future for Moseley & Kings Heath. That means promoting a lifestyle that is energy-conscious and healthy, and focusing on the positives for the individual and the environment. There is a lot of excellent work coming out of community groups in the ward (such as Kings Heath Transition Initiative and SusMo), and I want to make sure that the Council is a willing partner in their endeavours.

I want to see a thriving business and trading community with diverse shops, goods and services. This means being an active supporter of the BID for Moseley, drawing support from the successful BID in Kings Heath – and being a champion for the ward as a place to do business.

This naturally links to employment – both in terms of businesses based in the ward and employing local people, but also, in terms of prospects for local people – in education, training and employment. This doesn’t have one answer or approach, and nor can it be entirely achieved at local level – but there is a lot that can be done. As a former teacher, and as I have said many times, I am particularly concerned about young people.

It is my view that councillors should give the council a clear view of what the community needs to thrive, and ensure that all stakeholders can work in partnership to meet aspirations we all share: health and happiness; lifelong education; community arts; and a vibrant cosmopolitan community.

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