Residents in Yardley have celebrated saving their playing fields from developers - and are now being invited to have a say in their future. 

Plans to build a new housing estate on land at Barrows Lane sports ground in Yardley were rejected by Birmingham Council after Persimmon Homes had failed to offer a suitable site for replacing the pitches that would have been lost.

The planning rejection followed a ten-year campaign by the residents that began when the then Birmingham Co-operative Society put the land up for sale in 2013, having been originally gifted it by the local Barrows family in 1920 under a covenant that it would always be used for the benefit of the local community.

The Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Yardley Labour MP Jess Phillips and Liberal Democrat Yardley East Ward Councillor Deborah Harries together provided cross-party opposition to the plans.

All were interviewed, along with representatives from local sports clubs, parents and young people all of whom want to make use of the land for sport and leisure, in a 15-minute video Save our Fields produced by the Yardley Community Protection Society. In telling the community story, the video helped ensure the rejection of the third and final attempt at obtaining building consent.

At a celebratory event supported by the Yardley Neighbourhood Network Scheme team, held at St Edburgha's Church Hall in Yardley, Jess Phillips told residents it was “thanks to the efforts of the community and cross-party support” that the only grass playing fields in the area had been protected.

The MP also stressed that the Barrows Lane playing fields - closed for the past ten years to all organised games - could be brought back to use for a low cost within one to two years to help reduce a shortage of pitches across the city, but that “it is now up to the community to decide what to do with the space”.

Fay Goodman, Chair of the Yardley Community Protection Society, who led the Barrows Lane campaign for most of its ten years, also announced that there has been an increasingly positive dialogue with the Co-op with a view to the local community being a contender to buy the site.

Fay is now in the process of circulating a questionnaire to residents to help shape a development blueprint covering the sports and activities, nature preservation, and community features and facilities they would like to see.

She said: “Our collective endeavour is not just about preserving physical spaces but also embodies the health and vitality of our community - encompassing individuals of all ages, genders, cultures, and physical and mental abilities.

“With air pollution and lack of green spaces exacerbating chronic health conditions, these fields are the clean air lungs of the city. They also serve as a vital nature corridor with avenues of protected trees and wildlife habitats.”

“I hope as many residents as possible will be able to complete and return the questionnaire – and I wish to thank everyone for their support.”

Sidra Irfan, Community Development Worker for the Yardley Neighbourhood Network Scheme, added: “The evening event, well-organised by Fay and her team, gave Yardley Neighbourhood Network Scheme the chance to meet local assets and residents to promote our services. Families came together to socialise and learn about what was happening in their local area.”

Picture caption: Yardley residents are joined by Jess Phillips, MP for Yardley (sixth from left), as they celebrate saving their playing fields during a community event held at St Edburgha’s Church Hall in Yardley