Just as we were bracing ourselves for another drawn-out Hagley Road-style fracas over a road widening scheme disguised as a bus showcase upgrade, this time on the Outer Circle number 11 route, Birmingham’s new-look City Council dramatically shelved two major sections of the proposed £26.3 million development.

Residents of School Road, Hall Green, took to the streets to protest against the loss of their avenue of mature street trees to a widened road, while Acocks Green residents held a public meeting to raise the alarm about how the plans would involve ruining the distinctive village ‘Green’ and taking out trees in the shopping centre to provide new parking bays. Working closely with the residents, Birmingham FoE’s transport campaigner Martin Stride was preparing for a long campaign.

Withdrawn
But then, on 28th July, Councillor Len Gregory, the new Conservative cabinet member for Transportation & Street Services, announced that the School Road and Acocks Green sections of the Showcase proposals had been withdrawn.

Councillor Gregory said: “Having read the proposals already extended the consultation period because of the strength of public opinion, I have now decided that plans for a bus lane on School Road, Hall Green will be dropped. The plans that would have seriously affected ‘the Green’ in Acocks Green, a much loved local facility, are also now redundant.” He added: “The survival of many mature trees and open green space is now assured.”

Birmingham Friends of the Earth fully welcomed the City Council’s action to remove the threat of ‘road widening by stealth’ from these two key areas along the route, but we’d like to see the scheme rejected in its entirety.

Other areas marked for similarly destructive development have yet to be reprieved: demolition of properties and road widening could still go ahead at Six Ways and Wood End Road in Erdington; on Station Road/Flaxley Road, Stetchford, a whole block of houses and shops will be demolished to make way for a widened road and a large traffic island; near the junction with Bordesley Green East in Stetchford two historic hedgerows and ten mature trees, including a massive old oak, will be ripped up for road widening.

Strategy
Bus showcase routes do have a role to play in improving bus reliability but only within the existing road capacity and as part of a wider strategy that gives buses priority, especially at junctions. Existing bus lanes and double yellow lines must be properly enforced and investment plowed into new shelters, improved timetable information, and cleaner, safer buses. Such a strategy, combined with greater walking and cycling provision, would improve services and prevent conflicts like this undermining support for the principle of dedicated bus lanes.