The main concern for me over the last 10 years has been the proliferation of new houses built in the area. For some reason Bromsgrove used to have more than its fair share of hospitals. I guess it's because up until the 1960's it was a country town, ideal for convalescing (in fact I know my father, who was an asthma sufferer, came to one of the town's hospitals for precisely that reason). With policies changing in the NHS many of these hospitals have been closed and have been bulldozed to make way for new housing.
The Forelands at Rock Hill was the first to go. This was where my father stayed for a while early in the 1960's. It was a lovely big old building surrounded by grounds filled with mature trees and had views looking over to the Malvern Hills. Bryant Homes filled the site with luxury 4 and 5 bedroom homes (okay - there are some 3 bed semi's too but not many).
Hill Top and Lea Hospital fell shortly afterwards. These had
architectural importance with the former being a 1960's monstrosity and
the latter a group of post-war prefabricated units that were long past
their use-by date. Hill Top was again developed by Bryant and was
also filled with 4/5 bedroom luxury homes. The Lea Hosptial site
was mostly developed by Bovis (part of the site was given over to
and filled with - you've guessed it - 4 and 5 bedroom luxury, detached
homes. A few 2 and 3 bed homes are on the site but not many.
The most distressing development - not just to me but to many of the townsfolk - has been at Barnsley Hall Mental Hospital. Due to the governments change of policy and the development of 'care' in the community schemes the hospital was closed down. It was built early in the 20th century (completed 1904 I believe) and was a huge site full of splendid buildings. Local conservationists had tried several times to get the government to grant listed building status on many of the buildings but had failed. A wonderful ballroom (supposedly the finest in Worcestershire) was one of the many structures to be bulldozed.
The biggest disappointment to many people in the town was the loss of the splendid gothic water tower (picured right) that truly was a landmark in the broadest sense of the word. On the day it came down lorry drivers on the nearby M5 stopped on the hard shoulder to watch as it had been a feature of their trips up and down the country for all of their driving careers. Its loss was felt deeply by me and many others.
Let us not ignore that the developers did keep two fine buildings - the administration block and the chapel. Both have been restored and are in use as office space. And the rest of the site? Luxury homes, what else? A larger area than normal was set aside for 2 and 3 bed homes but this is a large site so that's not too surprising.
The most recent development and one that surely must end the expansion of the town for many years to come is The Oakalls estate. An area that was formally farmland to the east of the town will be covered by 800 homes provided by a variety of builders. A drive around the site one Sunday afternoon last year left Claire and myself flabbergasted that such a huge area of land could ever have been lost to housing. Frankly, it's shocking.
A recurring theme above is my indignance that almost all the new housing in the town is 4 bed luxury detached or better. If you think I'm jealous of people who inhabit these pale imitations of character properties then you are mistaken. If you think I would like to live on one of these soulless estates then think again! What I find galling is that the local councils (district and county) always claim that the drive for building more houses comes from central government. They say they have to provide so many properties or they'll get in trouble.
Why do we need so much new housing? The government tells us it's because there are more people living alone and more divorces leading to two homes required instead of one. And what type of properties do these people need? 2 and 3 bed homes of course. So why cover the land with luxury homes!? Because they make more money for the builders of course. It's f*#king shocking if you ask me. And the character of Bromsgrove has been diluted forever as a result...