Words & pics by Ed King
On Saturday 3rd October, around 50 local residents are holding a socially distanced ‘grass cutting protest’ on Short Heath Playing Fields in Erdington – continuing their fight to save the ‘beloved parkland’ from property developers.
Meeting at 2pm, friends and families from the local community will organise themselves on Short Heath Playing Fields – cutting the overgrown grass with handheld gardening tools and scissors.
The ‘grass cutting protest’ is being organised after Birmingham City Council’s refusal to cut the long grass, or to allow privately owned motorised equipment onto the land – such as lawn mowers.
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 demonstration will be following all the coronavirus crisis guidelines – ensuring the community endeavour is fully COVID-19 safe.
Campaigners are wanting to help make the area more accessible for local children and elderly residents, by stripping back the long grass and thistles to encourage healthy outdoor activities for people of all ages.
In a statement from Short Heath Fields Trust, representing the wider community, protest organisers Estelle Murphy and Stephen Hughes say:
“We have asked Birmingham City Council to cut the grass on Short Heath Playing Fields, so that whilst our community cannot meet in their homes and gardens (due to coronavirus restrictions) they have a space to be outside and safe.
“There is a fight going on to save Short Heath playing fields, as Birmingham city Council want to build a housing estate on the beloved park land. But in the interim we can see no reason why the green space cannot be used to help keep local residents healthy and happy during this global pandemic.
“As the Council have refused to help make the playing fields safer and more accessible, and won’t allow any third party to help with the appropriate motorised equipment, we have organised this grass cutting protest to help everyone in our community.”
The ‘grass cutting protest’ is the latest challenge to Birmingham City Council, following outrage across the community about the proposed housing development on the park land.
There have been further concerns about the lack of community consultation, with many local residents not being informed about the huge housing development that would take place on their doorstep.
In July 2019, Birmingham City Council sought approval to ‘dispose’ of the park land from the Department of Education’s portfolio – where it had been held as playing fields for local schools, including Court Farm Primary and St Mary Margaret Primary.
So far, the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields has attracted thousands of supporters across the Erdington constituency – including a petition signed by 1500 local residents, that was presented to Birmingham City Council on Tuesday 15th September.
Erdington Councillor and leader of the Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, has also been challenging the proposed developments in Council meetings for months.
“Short Heath Playing Fields are vital to the local area,” says Councillor Alden. “They are a green lung – that helps clean our air, helps provide residents with an area to go to help exercise, and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
“In the post Covid-19 world even the Council admits that it is vital to provide green space yet despite us making it clear to them at numerous Council meetings and in petitions presented to Council that Erdington and Perry Common have a shortage the Council refuse to scrap their crazy plans to build on this valuable green space.”
Erdington’s Labour MP, Jack Dromey, has also called on the Council to listen to the concerns of local residents.
“It is clear the Council have not done a good enough job of consulting with concerned residents,” states Jack Dromey, “and local people understandably feel that they have been ignored and the sense of anger is palpable.
“Going forward, I will continue to argue that it would be wrong to go ahead with these proposals without proper consultation that involves local voices at every stage.”
Campaigners continue to challenge Birmingham City Council’s plans to develop a housing estate on 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