Some of the chickens from the Birmingham bid to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games are already coming home to roost.
When Durban in South Africa had second thoughts and was stripped of hosting the event, no other city in any of the fifty commonwealth countries wanted the games. Only at the 11th hour did Liverpool and, Labour led basket case, Birmingham step in with bids to host. Birmingham won.
At the time, Birmingham city council was having difficulty empting dust bins so the prospective glitz and glamour of the games was a welcome diversion. Where the Brummies led socialist Sandwell tottered behind. Sandwell was to host the swimming events.
To do this Sandwell needed to build a big swimming pool. Now Sandwell has acres of derelict post industrial waste land, while its green spaces are few. Because the time frame for building the baths was short, the council cut corners and decided to build on Londonderry Fields one of a very few bits of greenery in Smethwick. The sole reason for the selection of this site was that building on it was quicker and cheaper than developing a brown field site.
So the first consequence of the games was the destruction of a green field site in Sandwell.
The original plans provided for an athletes’ village in Perry Barr identified as a legacy or permanent benefit of the games. Cost and completion concerns have caused that to be shelved. Instead athletes will be housed in student accommodation at a number of university campuses in Birmingham and Coventry and lose the camaraderie of a single site.
The building of the Sandwell swim pool is now having an impact. Having to contribute to the cost of the project, Sandwell Leisure Trust, which runs leisure facilities on behalf of Sandwell council, is strapped for cash. As ever with these left wing councils when they overspend on vanity projects, the workers are the first to suffer. SLT is now in a pay dispute with its employees, strikes are threatened and the closure of existing leisure centres likely.
Facing hefty bills for the building and maintenance of the games swimming baths, SLT is desperately cutting other costs in an effort to make ends meet. A direct immediate result is the proposed closure of Brandhall golf club and the council is planning to build a school and housing on the site. So another green space will be sacrificed in Sandwell for the Smethwick swim palace.
It is not suggested that a new school and housing are not required, it’s the calamity building on green rather than brown field sites which is wrong. Sandwell council, having been asleep for 40 years of socialist dominance and built practically nothing, has woken up to the need and gone, again, for the destructive quick fix.
So for the dubious privilege of hosting two weeks of swimming and diving, Sandwell is sacrificing green field sites. The legacy will be an unnecessary white elephant building, expensive to maintain. Already, the project has involved cuts to other leisure provision in the borough. This will be ongoing and more extensive, as building and upkeep costs rise.
As we say locally the project is “All fur coat and no knickers”.