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Haines Branch Walk Book

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Haines Branch Walk Book

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Introduction Wider Impact Consultancy has been commissioned by the Birmingham & Black Country Community Foundation to carry out an independent review of opportunities to regenerate the Tipton based Haines Branch Walk. The Walkway, which connects the Great Bridge High Street with the Sheepwash Urban Park, is without doubt run down and neglected. Despite the best efforts of the local authority, British Waterways and the Environment Agency, litter and antisocial behaviour is a continuous problem. Shrubs and trees have become overgrown, and the area has become a magnet for issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, vehicle thefts and a general fear of crime; particularly felt by young people, lone females and the elderly. Such problems are putting off local people and visitors from fully utilising this area of natural urban beauty and historical interest. It is also apparent that opportunities are being lost for the walkway to contribute to: ● local plans and strategies to tackle local issues linked to poor health, low levels of fitness and high levels of obesity ● opportunities to attract visitors and much needed footfall to the High Street, which is suffering from the ongoing economic recession

Our approach has been to consult widely with local people, local business people and key partner agencies such as the local authority, British Waterways, the Environment Agency, West Midlands Police, Alexandra High School, Living Streets, the community and voluntary sector and local councillors. Our methodology has included: ● community questionnaires – reaching 160 local people (young and older) and 20 local businesses ● ‘Planning for Real’ exercises – which took place within the Great Bridge Indoor Market and Alexandra High School

● desk research – to gain an in-depth understanding of the history of the walkway, and data and information linked to key issues such as community health, economic stability, crime and antisocial behaviour We are pleased to present what we believe is a well researched report that highlights our findings and recommendations. We are confident our recommendations are balanced, and provide options aimed at supporting the PROPOSED regeneration of the Haines Branch Walk. REIDENTIAL

DEVELOPMENT

● video interviews – which have been re-produced within the DVD included with this report ● one to one interviews – with local people, partner agency members and local historians ● a feature on local radio – Dr Carl Chin’s show, BBC West Midlands ● a community litter pick ● observational studies, which has included video records and still photographs ● site visits – to similar UK based walkways

Foreword Birmingham & Black Country Community Foundation (BBCCF) is pleased to commission this report on behalf of the Great Bridge community, as it is our mission to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged communities in our region.

supporting the wider regeneration of the Great Bridge area. I am particularly pleased to note opportunities to deliver local Fair Share Trust priorities to:

We are dedicated to building capacity and sustainability in local communities, which includes support for community assets and involvement in local regeneration. We have been able to achieve this through Fair Share Trust (FST) which is a ten year project funded by the National Lottery.

● reduce local concerns about antisocial behaviour, drug abuse, crime and community safety

It is clear that the Haines Branch Walk is a unique and important place to local people, visitors and potential tourists to the area, who appreciate a place of natural urban beauty and history. However all is clearly not well on the walkway.

BBCCF and FST remain committed to working in partnership with local agencies to improve the local environment. We look forward to supporting the delivery of the recommendations highlighted within this report, and continue to play an active role in the regeneration of the Haines Branch Walk and wider Great Bridge area.

It is evident that this report, which includes a number of well thought out recommendations, can play a positive role in

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Haines Branch Walk

● involve young people through developing their skills

Sheepwash Lane

● support activities that promote health and wellbeing for all residents

David Bucknall Chairman, Birmingham & Black Country Community Foundation www.bbccf.org.uk


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Overview The Haines Branch Walk is a site of significant public interest as a heritage site, and area of natural urban beauty. The walkway runs alongside the River Tame for around a third of a mile, connecting the run-down Great Bridge High Street, Tipton, to the entrance of the nearby Sheepwash Urban Park, which forms part of the Black Country Urban Forest. The whole of the Haines Branch Walk is currently overgrown and neglected. Local people and visitors – including the elderly, young people and children – are put off using the walkway. Problems include serious litter issues, overgrown shrubs and weeds, which local police say are encouraging criminal activities such as vehicle thefts, illegal drug taking, and alcohol related antisocial behaviour.

Extensive community consultation involving local people, schools, businesses and key multi-agency stakeholders has clearly indicated a need and desire to renovate and restore the Haines Branch Walk. Clear benefits will include opportunities to: ● encourage and develop community cohesion and action ● highlight the importance of local history and industrial heritage ● restore and develop natural fauna and plant life living within and alongside the River Tame ● encourage young and old to exercise and enjoy the benefits of walking in the countryside within an urban environment ● reduce local crime and antisocial behaviour ● improve public safety and feelings of well-being ● attract tourists and visitors to a local high street under threat of economic deprivation

Haines Branch Walk

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Heritage

Play and recreation

History of the site

Community members, young and not so young, have made it clear that play and recreation should be a key feature of the Walkway.

Named after Job Haines, a local coal master and original member of the Tipton Local Board of Health, the Haines Branch of the Walsall Canal network was opened in 1833. It ran five eighths of a mile (1,100 yards) to serve collieries and brickworks to the south of Great Bridge. These included Cophall Colliery, Denbigh Hall Colliery and the Pumphouse Brickworks.

The majority of community members surveyed indicated that they currently use the Walkway for leisure purposes. When asked how the Haines Branch Walk could be improved, responses have included:

In the 20th Century the Branch also served the timber yard of Tailby and Cox in Mill Street, Great Bridge, and it was timber traffic by boat which meant that the canal survived in commercial use right up to 1966.

● activities for young people

Imported timber was delivered by Willow Wren Boats from Brentford, where it was delivered via the River Thames by Lighters from London Docks and then transferred to the canal boats. Haines Branch became disused and derelict when canal traffic ended.

● cut back shrubs and trees to improve access and make the area safer, and open for young and old to enjoy

Of significant historic interest to the area is the ship the Aaron Manby, which was the first iron steamship to go to sea. Built at nearby Horsley Ironworks in 1821, the Aaron Manby was named after the Master of the Ironworks, where she was pre-fabricated to a design jointly formulated by Captain Napier, Aaron Manby and his son Charles Manby.

● information boards

● play areas ● picnic areas ● general clean up

● improve access to the river

The image on the right highlights ‘Natural Play’ facilities which are proving a popular feature at similar sites around the country.

Community Consultation Community consultation has revealed that whilst local community members have a low awareness of local history and heritage, there is significant interest and a desire to find out more.

I am aware of local history and the heritage of my local area

Recent research (Play, Naturally – A review of children’s natural play) highlights:

I would like to be more aware of local history and the heritage of my local area

● natural environments support a wide range of children’s play ● children’s opportunity to playfully access their immediate natural environments support the development of a sense of place and attachment

It is encouraging to note that there is interest from young people to find out more about the history of the Haines Branch Walk site and its connections with the industrial heritage of the wider area. There is a noticeable consensus of support to use the opportunity to renovate and develop the site as a place of significant historical interest, with aims that include educating and inspiring local people and visitors to take an interest in local history and heritage.

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Haines Branch Walk

'The Waste' Wild Play Park, Leek Staffordshire.

How would you rate your views?

● the powerful combination of a diversity of play experiences and direct contact with nature has direct benefits for children’s physical, mental and emotional health

How would you rate your views?

0 – 3%

1 – 14%

2 – 21%

3 – 28%

4 – 16%

5 – 15%

Not Indicated – 2%

0-LOW 5–HIGH

0 – 1%

1 – 3%

2 – 3%

3 – 14%

4 – 22%

5 – 55%

Not Indicated – 2%

● collectively the benefits fully support the outcomes established in ‘Every Child Matters’


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Biodiversity

Community wellbeing Total Deprivation

Running throughout the length of the Haines Branch Walk, the River Tame is the most urbanised river in the country, with over 1.7 million people living within the vicinity. Previous industries on its banks have left a legacy of pollution and poor water quality.

As the image on the right highlights, overall deprivation in the Great Bridge area is extremely high, compared with the rest of the country. Key areas of concern to the local community are:

Source: UK Indices of deprivation

MOS T

● Crime and Antisocial Behaviour

Additional problems, which impact on the whole of the Haines Branch Walk site, include severe litter issues and overgrown river banks that put off and exclude the public from accessing and fully enjoying the river as it passes through the area.

Local police are highlighting the fact that the overgrown nature of shrubs and trees on the Haines Branch Walk is proving to be a magnet to those who are looking to steal cars and hide and dismantle stolen motor cycles.

Community consultation has clearly indicated that looking after nature and the environment is important to the local community. Looking after nature and the environment is important to me

ST LEA

As this graph indicates, the majority of community members surveyed do not feel that the Haines Branch Walk is a ‘Nice place to walk’. 0-LOW 5–HIGH

Do you think Haines Branch Walk is a nice place to walk?

How would you rate your views?

0-LOW 5–HIGH

How would you rate your views?

0 – 1%

1 – 1%

2 – 7%

3 – 14%

4 – 18%

5 – 58%

Not Indicated – 1%

0 – 11%

1 – 39%

4 – 0%

5 – 28%

2 – 0%

3 – 22%

Participation levels in physical activity in Sandwell are some of the lowest in the country as measured by a recent Sport England Active People survey (13.8% compared to 22% nationally). Research has highlighted that over 61,000 adults (around 28% of the population) in Sandwell could be defined as obese.

Not Indicated – 0%

Relevant Local Authority Strategies Development Plans Linked to its duties under the Environment Act 1995, the Environment Agency is supporting the regeneration of the River Tame and the Haines Branch Walk, with objectives that include wildlife thriving within an urban area. This will be achieved by improving the sustainable quality of the habitat for the benefit of all species. Key aims will include tackling local issues such as: ● disturbance to ecosystems ● risks to unprotected habitats ● habitat loss and fragmentation ● loss of biodiversity ● loss of protected species

Local community members have already responded to the challenge by joining in a community litter pick, river cleaning, and supporting the Sandwell Borough Council’s ‘Big Spring Clean’ initiative. Unfortunately this has not proved enough, as nature, the environment and uncaring community members have conspired to ensure that problems such as overgrown shrubs, weeds, litter and localised river pollution quickly returns. It is clear that specialist support and advice from key partners such as Sandwell Borough Council and the Environment Agency, along with the support of the local community, is needed to deliver sustainable outcomes that will achieve key biodiversity objectives.

● Health Deprivation within the Great Bridge and Sandwell Areas

● Sandwell Physical Activity, PE & Sport Strategy (2009-14)

As this table highlights, available Census details reveal how local peoples’ health in areas such as long-term illness, health problems or disability that restrict their daily activities, or work they could do, compare to regional and national rates. Variable Measure

Great Bridge

Sandwell

England

Good %

50.3

62.7

68.8

Fairly Good %

30.3

25.4

22.2

Not Good %

19.3

11.9

9.0

● Sandwell Places Strategy (2010-20) ● Sandwell Child and Family Obesity Strategy (2009-14) ● Great Bridge Neighbourhood Employment Skills Plan There is a local drive by all agencies to improve the safety and well-being of the Great Bridge population, which is clearly set to grow in future years. Linked to local strategies, key components include significant investment in public parks and open spaces such as the Haines Branch Walk, with work ongoing to create a healthier environment through the Sandwell Healthy Urban Development Unit.

Haines Branch Walk

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Economic development The Great Bridge Neighbourhood Employment and Skills Plan highlights that the social-economic profile of the Great Bridge ward will continue to change, as new housing developments see the arrival of residents from elsewhere. There have been a large number of residential developments in the Tipton area in recent years and this is set to continue. There are several proposed developments with planning permission in Great Bridge.

There can be no doubt that the renovation of the Haines Branch Walk, with direct links to the High Street and current and developing local housing areas, will support local Great Bridge traders who, as the graphs highlight, are clearly concerned about the economic wellbeing and survival of their businesses. Concern about the survival of local businesses in the town centre

0-LOW 5–HIGH

The need to attract more people to the town centre

0 – 0%

1 – 5%

2 – 0%

4 – 5%

5 – 90%

Not Indicated – 0%

Costings

Our research has highlighted that there is a clear need for improvements to the Haines Branch Walk that will include opportunities to:

We are grateful to British Waterways and the Birmingham & Black Country Community Foundation, who have enabled the supply of data and information for us to present a number of costed options regarding the regeneration of the Haines Branch Walk:

● build on local heritage – including schools, visitors to the area, and wider community members ● improve biodiversity – removing ever-present litter and bringing ‘life’ to the river and surrounding area ● enhance community wellbeing, by:

0 – 0%

1 – 7%

2 – 13%

3 – 20%

4 – 27%

5 – 33%

Not Indicated – 0%

making the Walkway safer for people to visit and walk in

encourage people to walk more, get fitter and play a role in reducing overall obesity levels

● adoption of ‘Natural Play’ areas (including surveys, and the installation of natural play logs/equipment etc. – £50,000

encouraging local residents to use the Walkway to visit the town centre

free up car park spaces for visitors to park within the town centre area

making the area cleaner and a more pleasant place to visit and shop in

Development options Options include: ● a full site ‘make over’, which will include the restoration of the disused canal areas

Understanding the benefits of people leaving their cars at home, and utilising local walkways, we note with interest traders’ response to the benefits of more car park spaces being available for shoppers and visitors to the town centre. Local history and heritage could assist in attracting more people/tourists to the area

0-LOW 5–HIGH

● capping the entire section of the disused canal areas ● the provision of a bespoke public seating area at the High Street entrance to the Haines Branch Walk, which will act as Gateway to the site. Based on the Aaron Manby, the innovative design will act an historic and high visibility reminder of bygone years

Traders support to the development/ improvement of the Haines Branch Walk

● strategically placed information boards will inform and signpost visitors along the Haines Branch Walk, and make them aware of the site’s significance and the role it has played in shaping local history and culture ● the adoption of ‘Natural Play’ areas, enabling children and young people to play safely How would you rate your views?

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How would you rate your views?

0 – 0%

1 – 15%

2 – 5%

4 – 15%

5 – 65%

Not Indicated – 0%

Haines Branch Walk

3 – 0%

0 – 5%

1 – 0%

2 – 0%

3 – 10%

4 – 5%

5 – 80%

Not Indicated – 0%

● cap the disused canal area – £330,000

3 – 0%

Environmental and links to local heritage

● full site ‘make over’ – £430,00 ● provision of a bespoke seating area, linked to a short stretch of renovated canal area – £179,000

● enhance the economic development of the area, by:

How would you rate your views? How would you rate your views?

Summary of findings

● an overall clean up of the site, with the removal and cutting back of overgrown shrubs and trees, cleaning up the river, and steps to prevent criminal and antisocial behaviour; enabling improved and safer public access to the walkway

● site clean-up (including cutting back of over grown shrubs and trees, cleaning up the River Tame), information boards, motor cycle barriers – £15,000

Recommendations Based on our research, which has included local community consultations, meetings and communications with local stakeholders and potential funding providers, we are pleased to make a number of recommendations: 1. Understanding the current economic climate, and difficulties in raising funds during this period of austerity, we feel it is not currently realistic to consider a full site ‘make over’, or the option to cap the entire section of the disused canal area as viable options 2. We can see merit in the provision of the bespoke seating area, provided: a. local community members are able and willing to establish a newly formed ‘stand alone’ constituted organisation, with the ability and credibility to raise the funds (£179,000) to meet the development and additional on-going maintenance costs b. capital and revenue funds are secured to develop and maintain the seating area c. whilst the seating area will be sited on British Waterways land, the local authority should provide written consent for the seating area to be attached to the public highway 3. We can see great merit in the adoption of ‘Natural Play’ areas on the site, and see this as a viable option, providing sufficient funding (circa £50,000) is available to survey the site and install and maintain the play areas.


Proposed seating area

Summary

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Information Board

There can be no doubts that the Haines Branch Walk is a place of natural urban beauty, and has a positive role to play in: ● building on local heritage – encouraging: ●

young people and wider community members to take a ‘hands on’ interest in the history and heritage of their local area

visitors from outside the area to visit the Walkway and surrounding areas

Motorcycle barrie

● improving the biodiversity of the River Tame and surrounding areas ● enhancing community well-being, by:

PROPOSED REIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT 4. We highly recommend that an urgent overall clean up of the site takes place in partnership with the local authority and the Environment Agency. This work should also include the installation of two strategically placed information boards, and the provision of motor cycle barriers at each end of the walkway. 5. Linked to the overall site clean-up, we recommend that a new group is formed – ‘Friends of Great Bridge’, whose role would be to look after and carry out light maintenance work such as community litter picks, planting and maintaining newly installed information boards. This group should be an inclusive, constituted organisation, which should include, for example, local residents, local traders, school children of all ages, with support from key stakeholders and local partner agency representatives.

making the Walkway safer for people to visit and walk in

encourage people to walk more, get fitter and play a role in reducing overall obesity levels

Picnic area

We are pleased to offer a number of short and longer term recommendations, which we believe are realistic and achievable. We have noted a consensus of opinion that ‘to do nothing’ is not an option in relation to the Haines Branch Walk. The positives of simply cleaning the site up far outweigh negatives that include high levels of litter, crime, antisocial behaviour and fitness and obesity levels amongst local people. Included is a DVD which provides an overview of the Haines Branch Walk. Most importantly, it highlights the views of local people including school children, residents and business representatives. In conclusion, we would like to thank those organisations and individuals who have assisted in production of this report. Edwin Lewis Director, Wider Impact Consultancy www.widerimpact.com

● enhancing the economic development of the area by:

Foot/cycle path

encouraging local residents to use the Walkway to visit the town centre

freeing up car park spaces for tourists and other visitors to park within the town centre area

making the area cleaner and a more pleasant place to visit and shop in

Natural play areas

Friends of Great Bridge

Click here to view the supporting film.

Friends of Great Bridge should include local community volunteers, who share a joint interest in supporting the natural beauty and wellbeing of communal areas such as the Haines Branch Walk. The group should be constituted and have in place necessary insurance policies, and be supported by the local authority and other key partner agencies. Membership should be diverse, and representative of the wider Great Bridge community. Local schools and colleges should be encouraged to become involved in activities and initiatives.

Information Board Motorcycle barrier

Haines Branch Walk

Sheepwash Lane

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We are grateful to the following organisations for their support in the production of this report

Alexandra High School & Sixth Form Centre A Business & Enterprise College

Wider Impact Consultancy Limited • Tel: 0845 165 0491 • Fax: 0845 165 0442 • Mobile: 07871 179 780 • Email: edwin@widerimpact.com • Web: www.widerimpact.com • See: www.interactivereporting.co.uk Produced by Smith Davis Press • Tel: 01782 829850 • Web: www.smith-davis.co.uk


Haines Branch Walk Consultancy