Words, pics & video by Ed King
On Saturday 3rd October, the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields had planned a ‘grass cutting protest’ on Short Heath Playing Fields – an innovative show of community spirit, that would both tidy up the overgrown parkland and once again show Birmingham City Council just how important the green space is to local residents.
Organised by Short Heath Fields Trust, the whole event was planned within coronavirus safety criteria – with an official COVID-19 Marshall, Estelle Murphy, overseeing the event.
Sadly, horrendous rain and bitter winds forced the campaigners to cut short the event – worrying about the health and wellbeing of people spending an afternoon outside in the early Winter weather.
But despite the dark skies and freezing cold, over 50 local residents still made their way to Short Heath Playing Fields – to stand alongside their community and continue their fight to save the beloved parkland from property developers.
“Today, our community humbled me,” tells Estelle Murphy. “From toddlers to pensioners, they showed up in the pouring rain – soaked through and sinking in mud. It was unsafe to continue with the protest, but had we asked it of them they would have been on their hands and knees cutting the grass.
“Our community has the heart of a lion, ready to protect each other and not afraid to stand up and speak out. If I could ask on question of Birmingham City Council today it would be ‘Can you hear us now?’”
Organised by the Short Heath Fields Trust (a recently formed community action group, dedicated to protecting the 26,912 square metres of cherished green space) the grass cutting protest is the latest series of local resident led endeavours to save Short Heath Playing Fields.
Once earmarked for the use of local schools, and left in the Department of Education’s portfolio, Birmingham City Council is now planning to move the land into housing – allowing for the development of potentially 84 new buildings on the beloved green space.
But the message coming from campaigners and the wider community is clear, with over 1500 people signing a petition against the proposed developments – handed to the Council on 15th September.
“Please Birmingham City Council, listen to the people in this area,” asks Steve Hughes – a representative for Short Heath Fields Trust and one of the coordinators for the ‘grass cutting protest’, “and understand that there is a real need for a green space here.
“It’s desperately wanted, it’s desperately loved, and we want it to be here for ever… not lost forever.”
Erdington Councillor Robert Alden has also been challenging the proposed sale and development of Short Heath Playing Fields – contesting the lack of public consultation and appropriate use of public land.
“We’re here today to show the need to get these grounds maintained, to get the grass cut, so people during COVID can come out and use them,” tells Councillor Alden – speaking from Short Heath Playing Fields, during the storm that forced the grass cutting protest to be cancelled. “But also, to stop the Council form building on them (Short heath Playing Fields)
“We’ve had dozens of people here despite the weather, and it’s great to see how much support there is form the community. We’re right behind the (Short Heath Fields) Trust and we hope the Council will finally listen to what they’re putting forward.”
Despite the setback on Saturday 3rd October, with the grass cutting protest being cancelled, campaigners continue to challenge Birmingham City Council’s plans to develop a housing estate on Short Heath Playing Fields.
Short Heath Fields Trust are looking to host a COVID safe Halloween event on the playing fields later in the month, giving children in the local area a chance to enjoy the spooky celebration whilst staying socially distanced.
‘Grass cutting protest’ rained off, but community spirits undampened to Save Short Heath Playing Fields
For more information about the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521
To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields