Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King & courtesy of Councillor Robert Alden
The battle to stop the old Cross Keys pub being turned into a hostel could be the turning point for the High Street’s future redevelopment, Erdington Local can report.
The developers have been challenged by Erdington councillor Robert Alden of trying “sneak” through the latest application whilst people are preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, instead of being a discreet process, the Fairfield Fox Ltd application has become a touchstone issue with concerned residents inundating the public consultation with objections. The prospect of a hostel being opened so close to three schools has stoked fears in the community that these new residents will spark a crimewave in the area including a rise in violence, theft, and sexual assaults.
Erdington councillor Robert Alden, who is spearheading the campaign to prevent the application, believes children could be at risk if the hostel is approved.
He said: “The area is already saturated with this kind of accommodation and so cannot sustain any more being built in the local area.
“The site is close to Highclare School, Osborne School, Osborne Nursery, Abbey School and other nurseries which would mean children could be placed at risk from any ASB from the development. It is inappropriate for a hostel to overlook a school.”
He added: “We do not want to lose a pub and community amenity, this proposal would remove a much needed community asset that could easily be used as a pub or restaurant again.
“They have had two different applications for variations of HMO and hostel refused. Sadly, the applicant has obviously hoped they could sneak this through without people noticing in the current climate.”
Erdington High Street is on the brink of attracting transformational investment which could bring back the glory days when it was one of Birmingham’s busiest thoroughfares. However, the loss of a landmark public building at one end of the High Street in favour of the hostel could turn off potential investors in the whole area.
Cllr Alden warned: “The proposal is not in keeping with the proposals from the Future High Street Fund application and the City Council Urban Centres framework, nor the Birmingham UDP, so should be rejected.”
Branded ‘notorious’ and ‘a trouble spot’, the last time a pint was pulled at the Cross Keys was in 2018. The pub was forced to close after a melee resulted in a drinker being slashed across the face with a Stanley knife.
Micky Carpenter, who ran the Cross Keys from 2012-2017, told Erdington Local the pub could be a landmark attraction again.
He said: “I believe 110% the Cross Keys could be a landmark pub again; I know personally the pub made good money.
“The place had great community spirit with the amount of money we raised for charity in the five years I was there.”
He added: “Yes it had bits of trouble, like most pubs, but licensing will tell you that we handled the pub well.”
Micky, who now owns The Digby on Chester Road and is preparing to own his own gym, believes it would be a tragedy if the Cross Keys was lost to history due to its unique features.
He added: “It’s an amazing old building, still has the old stain glass M&B windows and the original brown and green tiles in the hallway.”
Tony O’Kereke, who now runs The Golden Hind in Kingstanding, joined the Cross Keys as assistant manager in 1999 – taking over as manager in 2003, he left in 2010. In 2004 the pub was awarded the Brewery trade magazine’s West Midlands Community Pub of the Year.
He believes the people of Erdington would back a new Cross Keys if given the chance.
He said: “There is a fantastic community in Erdington who are crying out for a community pub they can call their own and feel safe in.
“Now, all you’ve got is the Charlie Hall, the Swan and the Acorn and all those customers who used to use the Cross Keys are still out there.
“All you need is a gaffer who would be strict enough to keep the riffraff out and then people would flock back to the Cross Keys.”
Former patrons are determined to see the good times return at the Cross Keys too – where Erdington folk have been meeting for a pint for more than two centuries.
Frank Hayes said: “There has been a pub on that site for over 200 years.” And Mark Shepherd added: “There is virtually nowhere to go to socialise in Erdington anymore. Keep the Cross Keys as a pub.”
Residents are also getting seriously annoyed about the number of Housing of Multiple Occupancies (HMO) in the area. Fairfield Fox reject any suggestion their hostel will lead to an increase crime or be full of undesirables.
They argued in planning documents: ‘This site will not be housing at any stage people that are alcoholics, drug addicts, paedophiles, ex-offenders with serious criminal records.
‘It is clear that the supply of social rented property for our group range is insufficient to meet the requirements of homeless people and the site will help the right individuals after their assessments to successfully reintegrate back into the community and become successful in running their lives without the need to rely on government funds or criminal activity.’
The Cross Keys’ public consultation closes on June 16 – to object email Faisal.Agha@birmingham.gov.uk quoting the application number: 2020/02902/PA