A Birmingham community is leading the development of its local area. But it must respond to its detractors if it is to remain relevant to all stakeholders.
Moseley started life as a village. It is now a thriving area of Birmingham with a broad mix of residents. It has a compact centre of vibrant pubs and restaurants, which cater to all sorts and span a wide price range. In addition, the few hundred yards of central Moseley host an award-winning monthly farmers’ market, the annual folk and jazz festivals that attract international stars, a regular arts market, independent food shops, two chain supermarkets, a number of independent cafes and at least three live music venues.
Moseley also has a very active Community Development Trust (CDT), run largely by local volunteers. The Trust has persuaded the City Council to let Moseley become the first area of Birmingham to have its development plans led by the community. For this purpose, it has consulted locally and created a Supplementary Planning Document to the city’s main strategic plan. It has to do this if it wants any chance of success: proposals will only be listened to if they are in harmony with the existing council strategy.
But all is not rosy in Moseley. There is growing opposition to the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), and I suspect the opposition has the potential to be more damaging to the SPD than is being acknowledged.
Dialogue is in danger of succumbing to factional fighting. I don’t know who’s right, but I do know that the opposition is charismatic and visible. Moseley CDT is much less so. The opposition is fronted by a lively character who is talking directly to local businesses and putting posters in shop windows. By contrast, Moseley CDT has stopped posting updates through residents’ letterboxes and now expects people to visit its website for that information. The opposition’s poster contains fewer than ten, catchy, words; the CDT’s A1-sized information poster (only brought out on special occasions) is packed with small text in very, very long lines.
I understand the pressures. Moseley CDT is working hard on substance and has little extra capacity to use on PR (volunteers have other lives too). Unfortunately, I think it needs to find some. Because, unless it can prove it is as visible, as relevant and as uncomplicated as those who currently oppose it – and can provide lucid clarifications to any confused messages – it may soon find it no longer has the support of local interests.