By Peter Beck
In the last article, we left Quinton Recreation Ground at its greatest extent (7.45 acres) on 31st August 1956. At this stage Birmingham’s Parks Committee was optimistic that a proposed Link Road (now the A456 Quinton Express Way) running from the “Special Road “(M5 Junction 3) up to the Hagley Road West in Quinton would have a limited impact on the park. In any case the councillors were determined to preserve as much of the Recreation Ground as possible.
THE CREATION OF TWO PARKS
However, on the 4th April 1960 the Committee received unwelcome detail regarding the proposed route of the “Special Road” (M5) in that it would cut Quinton Recreation Ground in two, in approximately a north to south direction. In addition, an acre to the south of the Recreation Ground, which was zoned as public open space, would also be traversed by the Motorway. Three members of the Committee were authorised to take such action as they might consider necessary after investigating the matter.
They reported back to the Parks Committee 2nd May that they had no objection to the proposed route of the Special Road (M5), provided that (I) a bridge connected the two sections of the park which would be on either side of the motorway, and (ii) both sides of the motorway were suitably fenced and protected to prevent the possibility of accidents to people using the Recreation Ground.
The Parks Committee continued to be committed to the park. The Public Works Committee approved the erection of a mess room and tool shed* for park staff in early 1961. Then good news was received at their meeting of 6th November in the form of a letter from the City Engineer and Surveyor. He stated that while the line of the Link Road would cut through the centre of Quinton Nurseries and the allotments it would not absorb any of the park.
Over the next 3 years circumstances changed dramatically, owing to the completion of the M5 section from J3 to Hagley Road West. The Government introduced the West Midlands Order 1965 which resulted in this section of the M5 being used as a new local government boundary between Birmingham and Halesowen. Two other results were that the tennis courts were destroyed by the M5 and the 4.75 acres of Quinton Recreation Ground to the west of the M5 was transferred to Halesowen Borough Council.
Therefore, only the 1.75 acres of Quinton Recreation Ground to the east of the M5 in Birmingham remained in Birmingham City Council ownership. The Parks Committee was not interested in a recreational area of this size. They declared the land to be surplus to the requirements of the Committee and it was referred to the Estates Committee for disposal in accordance with Standing Orders. Furthermore, the Public Works Committee and the City Estates Officer were informed that the Committee considered the proposed link bridge over the Motorway would no longer be necessary and the previous decision of the Committee was amended accordingly. There appeared no question of the two councils cooperating to keep the recreation land east and west of the M5 as an entity and connected.
Of course, there were a number of ironies in all this. In 1909 Birmingham City Council had been only too happy to carry out the wishes of the people of Quinton Parish to annexe Quinton from Halesowen (Rural District Council) and therefore acquire and maintain Quinton Recreation Ground when it was only 1.25 acres in size. Now, irrespective of the wishes of the people of Quinton, it had no interest in keeping and maintaining a recreational area of 1.75 acres. Secondly in 1909 as a result of annexation, Birmingham gained a small park of 1.25 acres from Halesowen only to be happy, in 1966, for 4.75 acres (i.e. most of Quinton Recreation Ground) to be given to Halesowen. In the event it was to prove no easy matter for the BCC Parks Committee to dispose of the residue of the park (1.75 acres).
Overhead View of M5 Contruction
There was little consistency or logic to government decisions brought about by using the M5 as a boundary. A mile or so to the south of Quinton Recreation Ground what was to be called Howley Grange Recreation Ground found itself east of the M5. It was therefore within Birmingham yet it was decided that it should be owned by Halesowen Borough Council!
“THE RESIDUE” SURVIVES
On the 3rd of January 1967 the Parks Committee declared the 1.75 acres of land at Quinton Recreation Ground on the east side of the M5 Motorway and 5 acres forming part of Quinton Nurseries on the west side of the Link Road surplus to their requirements. This land lying between the M5 and the Link Road was of great interest to house builders - David Charles Ltd. had already included the area in an outline planning application.
On the 1st of January 1968 the Parks Committee were informed that no interest had been expressed by any other Committee in the residue of Quinton Recreation Ground. It was felt that because of its limited size and irregular shape it could not be economically developed except in conjunction with the adjoining land owned by David Charles Ltd. Use of the land for private housing would also conform with the BCC development proposals for Woodgate Valley. However, it was also agreed that enquiries ought to be made to ascertain whether any other private developer was interested in the land. They therefore requested the Public Works Department to appropriate for residential purposes, an area of approx. 1.5 acres of land on terms to be arranged by the City Estates Officer with a view to its sale to a private developer on the best terms possible to the Corporation.
However, the Committee clerk informed them that some difficulty might be envisaged in securing the Minister’s consent to the disposal of the land. On 4th November 1968 the Public Works Committee informed them that when considering this request for residential development they had to be mindful of the need for a children’s play space to serve the needs of the adjoining housing development. They could not therefore grant planning permission and the Parks Committee were requested to retain the residue of the recreation ground in order to provide the additional open space. The Parks Committee replied to the Public Works Committee that it considered the 1.5 acres of land unsuitable as a play space as the danger to children, particularly when playing ball games, was great. They felt that in the absence of full-time supervision children would inevitably find a way to gain access to the Motorway to retrieve balls.
Thus, the Parks Committee were in a quandary as to how to dispose of the land. By this time residential development had taken place including Powell Avenue) removing the shelter and the swings, so there were no formal facilities left. The Education Committee informed them on the 21st April 1969 that due to financial conditions it was not possible for them to appropriate the land at that time. They might, however, be interested in using the land as a playing area for Quinton C.E. School at some time in the future. Then the City Engineer advised them that the Ministry, when approving the Woodgate Valley Scheme, had altered the planning notation of these 1.5 acres from residential to public open space. Accordingly, on 5th April 1971 they accepted the Ministry’s ruling on the matter and rescinded their previous decision to declare the land surplus to requirements.
In the next article, I will endeavour to cover events from this point up until the present day.
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