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Birmingham Wheels race track to be cleared of Japanese knotweed despite user protests

Plans to clear the former Birmingham Wheels site of encroaching Japanese knotweed have been approved despite more than 500 objections. The Birmingham City Council-owned motor racing venue closed in October and sports operators who were former tenants as well as fans fear the planning request could impact the venue’s future.

Today Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously to approve the application to clean 9,160 square meters of Japanese knotweed. The council received funding from the government’s Leveling Fund to ‘renovate’ the former Birmingham Wheels site which previously offered sports including running and speed skating.

The application voted on today had been met with a total of 594 objections – raising fears that development of the site was imminent. David Carter of the Friends of Birmingham Wheels – which includes site users and operators – said it was ‘urgent’ to postpone the committee’s decision in order to move a works complex.

READ MORE:594 oppose removal of Japanese knotweed from Birmingham Wheels site out of fear for the future

He also called for the conditions to be clarified to allow the “immediate reopening” of sports facilities. He said: “Last October we were evicted from the site without our future being addressed in accordance with the requirements of the Birmingham Development Plan and National Planning Policy Framework.

“This despite rent being paid on time and in full throughout Covid, and the facilities being the busiest in their history. We were informed that the removal of the Japanese knotweed was urgent even though it has been present on the site for over 20 years.

“We argue that this planning application should be deferred to move the proposed complex elsewhere on the site. Its location on the drift zone and car park effectively prevents the operation of sports facilities and therefore conflicts with local and national politics.

Image of Japanese knotweed growing on site

He said the planning application showed remedial work “far beyond” the clearing of Japanese knotweed and said a condition should be included to limit the work to only clearing the weed. He called on the committee to make it clear that any future proposals for the site should “enable the consolidation and improvement of on-site sports facilities or ensure that these facilities are successfully relocated”.

Agent Simon Croxford, speaking in support of the plans, said the request was for “the treatment of Japanese knotweed only”. He said: “There is an obligation on the landowner – in this case Birmingham City Council – to prevent the Japanese knotweed present on the Wheels site from spreading off your property.

“You are not legally required to remove Japanese knotweed from your land unless it is causing a nuisance. But BCC, as the landowner, could be sued for spreading it in the wild.

Committee Chair Cllr Karen McCarthy suggested that the item regarding the complex could be addressed with an informative note requesting the location of the complex to minimize the impact on existing facilities. The committee did not decide to postpone the item and voted unanimously in favor of the plans.

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