What’s it all about?
Here at the YMCA in Sutton Coldfield, we are extremely proud of the many projects that we are able to deliver, helping local young people and their families. We are keen to offer our services to many more families, but as with any small charity hoping to expand its services, we desperately need additional premises to operate from.
Recognising this and encouraged by Birmingham City Council, in 2006 we bid for Government funding to construct a purpose built Youth and Community Centre in Walmley. At the time, due to funding cuts these public monies became unavailable, however in 2008, the YMCA Sutton Coldfield was approached by Rubery Owen / Kier who owned the former Hardy Spicers Sports Ground. They had previously sought residential planning permission on the site but had been refused permission as the land was designated for ‘community use’. They then proposed to build a Community Centre on the land that would be owned and run by the YMCA. To finance the Community Centre, they would seek to obtain residential planning permission for the remainder of the land which would greatly increase its value. Now with the support of the YMCA and the local authority, who saw the need for the new community centre, the landowners were able to gain planning permission in 2011 for 110 homes on the basis that a sport and community facility would be purpose-built for the YMCA and this would justify the loss of part of the ‘community land’ for private housing.
As the local community and family work are at the heart of what we do, we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to help shape a multi-use centre that would benefit the local residents as well as enable us to extend the work that we do and offer our services to more young people.
What is planned for the new Sports & Community Centre?
Since, there is little known about the proposed centre and what facilities it will have, we wanted to share more about the planned centre and what facilities it might provide for Walmley residents.
The new Sports and Community Centre will be approximately the same size as the Harvest Fields Community Centre in Four Oaks and is proposed to be:
- A new multi-use community and youth centre for Walmley managed by Sutton Coldfield YMCA.
- Accessible for all.
- Sustainable and environmentally aware; aiming as close to carbon neutral as possible.
- A centre of excellence with facilities accessible to young people with disabilities.
- Open 7 days a week 0900 to 2200 hours.
The building is designed as four sections:
- Central entrance / reception /café/ foyer area.
- Community rooms and facilities.
- Youth rooms and facilities.
- Large multi-purpose sports and community hall.
Central area (Reception / Foyer / Café):
- Seating for 20 people and to double as foyer space for the large hall.
- Training kitchen / servery: To accommodate 6 trainees and 2 staff.
- Prayer / quiet room: Seating for 6 to 8.
- Multi sensory room / quiet room: Immediately adjacent to youth wing.
- Community Rooms: To accommodate open meetings, seminars, events, exhibitions, workshops, small classes, lectures, etc.
- Young People’s Space: Large flexible space with central servery / control. Access to external play spaces. Direct access to main hall without passing through central reception area. Variety of uses in the space including seating, café, table tennis, pool table, work / hobby tables, small demountable stage, notice boards and displays, wet area, possible pottery, etc.
- IT Suite: 8 to 10 workstations.
- Multi-purpose hall: Flat sports / dance matted floor. Minimum of one half of a standard sports hall and capable of being doubled in the future. Initially to accommodate two badminton courts.
- Rear cross over and access to changing rooms.
- Sport / play and other activities could include:
- Badminton x 2 courts
- Short mat bowls
- Aerobics / keep fit
- Yoga, judo, etc
- Table tennis
- Five-a-side softball
- Mini basketball
- Short tennis
- Concerts, drama, films, etc
- Conferences / meetings
- Dance and drama classes
- Receptions and functions
- Guides, scouts, WI, etc
- Changing Areas: Two flexible changing rooms plus accessible changing rooms.
You may be aware that the landowners have recently sought to change their original commitment to the community centre and are now stating that the YMCA Sutton Coldfield are no longer involved. At a planning meeting on 12 October 2017 they tried to reduce their legal obligation to build to centre saying they could no longer afford to build it and instead offered to provide £3.5million to Birmingham City Council for it to build and operate the centre allowing up to seven years for the centre to be completed.
We and many others objected to this change as;
- The details of the centre were well known to the developers in 2011, they have sold the land for many millions and should now provide the community what was originally promised
- If the landowners could not build the centre for £3.5m how could the council do so.
- The council were already closing existing community centres for lack of funding and so were not in a position to operate it for the long term
- The community could wait a further seven years to get the facilities promised in 2011
- YMCA were ready to operate the centre sustainably and for the benefit of the community and were now being unfairly excluded from the development their support had secured
By a majority, the planning committee rejected the arguments put forward by the landowners and their own planning officers and rejected the changes they requested.
If you would like to see and hear the discussions which took place at the planning meeting on 12 October 2017 , you can watch it here.
There has been a lot of misinformation about the proposed centre so we have provided some key questions and answers below:
Q. Will there be homeless accommodation at the Community Centre?
A. No. The Sports and Community Centre will be non-residential so there will be no form of residential accommodation onsite.
Q. What about congestion and traffic?
A. We have no reason to believe that traffic will be an issue at or around the centre. The Centre will be of very similar size to Harvest Fields Centre and residents living close to the Centre on the Harvest Fields Estate have confirmed that the centre does not bring excess traffic onto the estate nor does it cause any traffic problems despite being used for conferences and as teaching and nursery facilities.
In addition, most programmes run by the YMCA Sutton Coldfield start after peak travel time supporting the fact that high levels of traffic are unlikely to be an issue.
Q. Why are the YMCA involved?
A. YMCA Sutton Coldfield is a small local charity and its trustees are based in and around Sutton Coldfield. It is affiliated with YMCA both in the UK and Internationally. For over 100 years we have provided services to young people and families within the town and have built a strong reputation for the work we do. The Walmley centre will enable us to do more of this work and to provide sports and other activities for the local community.
Q. What’s the alternative?
- Our preferred alternative is for the Council and the landowners to discuss with us what can be done and for us to engage with the local community over what is proposed.
- If the landowners / developers walk away from their obligations, the site could remain empty and open to fly tipping and anti-social behaviour
- If the landowners appeal against the decision of the planning committee and get their way, the remaining 35 houses will be built and it will be up to the council to build and operate the centre. It is important to note that at the planning meeting, the counsellors themselves thought it highly unlikely that the Council could build a decent facility for the amount proposed. And in a climate where Council owned facilities (such as Wyndley Leisure Centre) are being sold off due to the Council’s lack of resources, it is doubtful that the facility would be built at all.
Show your support and get involved
If you’d like to express your opinion, support the YMCA Sutton Coldfield and help us to secure the promised Community Centre in Walmley, you can get involved by:
- Pledging your support by signing up to support our Cause here
- Signing up to our newsletter to receive updates about the YMCA Sutton Coldfield
- Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 354 5614