Historic windmill ‘under threat’ from new housing development

Historic windmill ‘under threat’ from new housing development

Campaigners claim a 200-year-old grade II-listed windmill could be threatened by future housing developments.

Residents fear a Solihull Council decision could now open the door to hundreds of new houses near the historic Berkswell Windmill in Windmill Lane, Balsall Common, near C0ventry.

More than 50 objections had been made against including a site in Windmill Lane, Balsall Common – a stone’s throw from the Grade II-listed building – on the council’s brownfield land register.

The protesters fear that any development on the land would have a negative effect on the windmill – which was built in 1826 and underwent extensive restoration work a few years ago.

A Solihull Council report said it recognised the weight of public concern, but argued that at this stage the register was designed only to list “previously developed land” suitable for housing.

It added that a site’s inclusion on the register did not guarantee it would be taken forward to the next stage, during which councils select sites to grant “permission in principle” for development.

Jeanette McGarry, owner of Berkswell Windmill, maintained that the decision flew in the face of planning guidelines and could prove to be the thin end of the wedge, threatening the future of a wildlife-rich habitat.

“The response [to the council] just goes to show how important the windmill is as a monument,” she said.

“It is not just local residents, it is national organisations [like the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings] which recognise its significance

“The council are flouting democracy. They asked for responses to the consultation, the people responded and they have ignored them.”

Objections were also made by Balsall Parish Council, Berkswell Parish Council and the Midland Wind and Water Mills Group.

All local authorities are now required by the Government to produce a brownfield land register, with a list of 27 sites around the borough agreed for inclusion at a decision session last week.

It is calculated that overall the sites could accommodate between 1,067 and 1,738 dwellings, with a tract of land at the NEC and the former TRW site, on the Stratford Road, considered to have the greatest capacity.

In addition, council officers have also sifted through the Planning Register to identify suitable locations.

Cllr Ian Courts, cabinet member for managed growth, said that Solihull Council had made changes to the list following the recent consultation exercise and stressed that at this stage the register was about identifying those sites which matched the brownfield criteria.

“I think, in the main, objections have been on the basis that this is a planning application or something like it, it is not,” he said.

The present windmill was built in 1826 and continued to operate until 1948.

A major restoration project – costing £200,000 – was completed at the site in 2013.

It is complete with all of its original machinery and is thought to be one of the most complete mills in the country.

Courtesy of the Birmingham Post


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