In the face of such widespread opposition, the City Council asked its consultants to come up with a less drastic alternative which would destroy fewer trees and properties, and so they reopened the consultation period until the end of April. Residents and members of Friends of the Earth recently attended meetings, and saw various presentations of the alternative plans, but concluded that they are no better than the original proposals and will ruin the environment in this part of Edgbaston.
Although some trees and a grade II listed building are saved from destruction, over 30 mature street trees most of which are over 100 years old will still need to be taken out, and several front gardens will have a considerable slice taken out of them, destroying some of the trees which they contain. Also the Kings Head public house will still have to be demolished. The alternative looks just as bad as the original plan. Both alternatives are still under consideration but residents and Friends of the Earth will be vigorously opposing both. They agree that the Hagley Road must not be allowed to become a six lane 'motorway'.
Local resident Stephen Hartland said:
'It is sad to see that despite acknowledging that the original plans were unacceptable to us in Edgbaston, the alternative proposals are not particularly inspired and still inflict far too high a loss of trees and frontages in the area. In addition, we are promised semi-mature trees to replace those that we will lose, but I've seen what they're planting across from Lightwoods Park and they are no more than saplings – hardly a fair swap for a 100 year old lime tree!'
He went on to say:
'The Council have still failed to confirm the type of trees they would replace the mature ones they would be uprooting and we could find oaks, chestnut, elder, limes and beech trees replaced with much smaller silver birch and hornbeams. How will they mitigate the effects of pollution that these large trees help in doing?'
Martin Stride from Birmingham Friends of the Earth commented:
'The alternative plans are just as damaging as the original proposal and would be a disaster for the environment in this part of Edgabston. The bus services could be improved without wasting £14million on such a destructive road widening scheme. The extra road space provided will simply fill up with more cars, so that buses will just be trapped in even longer traffic queues where the bus lanes end. The measure is supposed to speed up buses, but it will not.
'If the bus services are going to be so radically improved, then people would use them and leave their cars at home. There would then be less traffic and so there should be no need to widen the road!'
No allowance has been made in either of these plans for the proposed Midland Metro tram extension to Edgbaston shopping centre which is currently at the public consultation stage, and its eventual extension westwards along the Hagley Road. Much of the proposed landscaping and other works associated with the bus scheme will be redundant once construction for the new tram line starts. The council should come clean and say what its long term plans really are for the Metro, rather than waste millions of pounds on a bus lane scheme which will have to be radically redesigned just a few years later to accommodate a Metro extension. None of the officers from the City Council who gave the presentation at the Edgabston Ward Committee Meeting were able to answer this question.
(1) Edgabston Ward Committee Meeting, 26th March 2003
Gary Groves of the City Council Transportation Department gave a presentation on the alternative plans. There were several public exhibitions where the plans could be viewed.
(2) In the original consultation, many residents only found out about the road widening after the Council had already made its decision. Initial publicity failed to mention the road widening element of the bus show case scheme.