Smethwick Parks- latrines and tree massacres

Despite the many concerns about desilting part of the raw sewage contaminated pool at Smethwick Hall park, Sandwell council decided to press on regardless after being blanked by polluter Severn Trent Water and their “community fund.”

I was in favour of the proposed original scheme to transform the pool and make a proper job of it, but not what has taken place up till now on the cheap. Environmental safeguards have gone out of the window after what has taken place over the last two weeks, and the disinformation from Sandwell council to the public is as disgraceful as it was after the sewage pollution issue occurred in 2019.

I was not aware that they were going to effectively make a cats toilet with the brown stuff being deposited near to Margaret Gardens and the children’s play area.

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Except, it’s not just “mud”!

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They disingenuously state that they have “discussed the project with Severn Trent Water- (the unstated environmental polluter), and the EA- the useless regulator. The danger is not specified, but let me specify it because this is bio-hazardous waste, potentially harmful to human health.

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“mudbath”

 

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The path around the lake and the banks were strewn with this crap, so if you are walking around here with your animal or kids, “you may want to give it 5…. (timescale of your choice)” as the saying goes.

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Here’s a reminder of what the EA found when they tested the sediment back in June 2019. And also what they reported officially at the time of the incident.

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This has now been banked to land.

might as well have just added to the pile in the hole…

Worst still, the fence which protected the birds from the worst of it has also been removed , prematurely in my opinion after the work has finished. I was told by SMBC that work would only be conducted up to this fence line. I was also told it was going  to be left there by parks management, only to go to the site and see it being removed by the contractors, who were scooping stuff back to reform the island.

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I stated my concerns about this to the council, but I get the impression that they could not care less, and are more concerned about how the fence and litter in the pool looks than the effect the material within this silt will have on the wildfowl. If deaths occur again now, after an absence of some considerable time, whereby the fence separated the birds from the worst contamination, then there will be only one party to blame for this.

AS A RESULT OF THE FENCE BEING REMOVED, I WOULD LIKE TO APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC TO PLEASE NOT FEED THE BIRDS IN THIS AREA BY THE INLET TO THE POOL, PARTICULARLY ANY SINKING SEED ETC. 

It now appears that some attempt is being made to cover the material dumped to land and on the island with hessian cloth- perhaps as a result of our monitoring concerns. As yet however, there is nothing in place to stop contamination coming into the pool, and now the flow has been increased, any such pollution will quickly wash right across it.

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Of course, the tree massacre around this pool had already been noted with it now resembling something like Hiroshima.

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But worse was to come, when I stumbled upon another operation going on at West Smethwick Park- again at the lakeside where all vegetation was being recklessly destroyed with chainsaws and chippers.

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We had had meetings with the council where we were told that if any works around pools were to be undertaken, we would be consulted first. Well this did not happen in this case, and hasn’t at other times either.  😥

I made a formal complaint and received the following from SMBC;

“The rationale for removing the scrub and small trees to the bank edge (whilst retaining the larger ones)  is to open up and restore the historic views from the footpath and adjacent areas into the Lake to restore the original open feel ‘Promenade’ of the past with a grass bank and views of the lake beneath the tree canopies 

Most of the trees and scrub on the bank at present are self set willows and poplars which if retained will totally overwhelm the lake edge and path, further obstruct views into the lake and eventually create a ‘dark corridor’.

These principles are clearly identified in the Planning submission ‘Design and Access Statement’  information.

Much of the vegetation on the bank has significantly grown since the bid was submitted and as a consequence requires more extensive clearance work of the less mature species whilst retaining the more valuable larger trees.  Additional planting of Extra heavy standard trees is also proposed to the larger gaps remaining to further enhance the ‘promenade’ effect.

Further works are planned for the pool and emptying of pool will be required to carry out this work. We intend to ensure that all work carried out has little or no impact to the wildlife of this site

We hope this resolves the current concerns.
 
 
Kind regards
Customer Feedback Team”
After a bit of digging , it appears that the heritage lottery design and access statement is buried in a 2017 planning application for the park, which does not specifically mention any pool works in the title.
DC/17/60435 | Proposed restoration and improvements of park and historic structures (Grade II Chance Memorial), Chance fountain, West Park Road and Victoria park entrances. Provision of lighting and CCTV, a two storey community pavilion with external events area, a new gym fitness area, improvements to existing MUGA (multi use games area). | West Smethwick Park West Park Road Smethwick
This scheme was approved on 3rd April 2017 and amended on May 18th of the same year with conditions, the principal one being that the scheme had to be commenced within three years- i.e by 3rd April/May 18th 2020. We are now of course in 2021, and I question whether the council are therefore in breach of their  own planning conditions, as I am not sure to what degree any work could have said to have been commenced by last year? 
And don’t anyone try to blame “the pandemic” for this when they don’t appear to have done anything substantial in the years 2017-2019.  :roll: 
The issues surrounding the proposed pool works are not a readily available public document, and nor is there knowledge of who exactly was consulted on these works. 
The statement about emptying the pool has come as another bombshell, and something else they didn’t tell us about. How can emptying the pool not have an adverse effect on both fish and wildlife? I have asked for timescales, and what this work is, and yet I have received no answers as of yet. Perhaps it is not so “clear” in the design and access statement as to what these are then?  😉 
It appears that the emptying of the pool is the top pool, which will again be desilted, re-landscaping will also take place between the two pools, with some ferns planted on the island. Click Links below. 
I have concerns, as do others that works that have taken place and have already been agreed in this scheme have had zero recent ecological input, and certainly not ours from a wildfowl welfare point of view. We are now in the bird nesting season, and will be seeking to delay any works commencing before September- and we will monitor and hold the council to that if they attempt to disturb any nesting birds. I have read such a statement within the submitted documents stating the bird nesting timescales and to avoid this time frame for the works, so “this is clear in the design and access statement”.
If that is a problem for the council’s timescales, then they should go through the correct legal channels and apply for a section 73 application to extend the time. They have had years to do the work, so do not try and cram this in citing short timescales. Lowering water levels at such a time should also be unthinkable. But this is Sandwell council we are dealing with here, and they appear to make it up as they go along……
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