Residents blast plans to build 15-storey ‘vertical forest’

Residents have been left baffled by plans to build a 15 storey "vertical forest" - similar to designs in Holland, Italy and China - in the industrial heartlands of the Black Country.

The huge eco-tower, which will be clad with trees and hundreds of bushes, has been submitted by architects for approval in West Bromwich, West Mids.

It will feature 77 apartments with ground floor shops and is similar to designs that have already sprung up in trendy cities across Europe and China.

But locals living in the working-class town have questioned whether such a structure is suitable as it would "stick out like a sore thumb" in an area "clad with grey concrete".

Many pointed to the £72 million arts centre The Public which was dubbed a "pink elephant" and hit the headlines back in 2008.

The pink and black building was £20million over budget, opened three years late before closing five years later when the council could no longer afford it.

Locals fear the vertical forest idea might also prove an unattractive proposition for the area because there's "not much to enjoy views of in West Bromwich."

But others have welcomed the move to try and brighten up the town and breathe new life into a centre, where nearly a fifth of shops currently lay empty.

One local resident Bartosz Olszewski, 39, said: "I think this would stick out like a sore thumb in West Bromwich. It looks an eyesore to be honest.

"It would be great for other cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester but it will just look silly here. We also need more amenities not more flats.

"Residents living there will just get a view of the top of the bus station, Sandwell College and rows and rows of empty shops.

"The council should just focus on sorting the issue of attracting businesses to the area first because this is bewildering."

Mum-of-one Tina Sanders, 29, added: "This looks just like another waste of money like The Public was, which could be better spent elsewhere.

"They have not learnt their lesson. Do our town planners not look around the area? It's run down and derelict and needs more sensible investment that this.

"A giant green tower block is going to look completely ridiculous in a town clad with grey concrete.

"Who on earth is going to live in a swanky eco-friendly apartment overlooking West Bromwich?

"I'm proud to be a Black Country girl but there's not much to enjoy views of here I'm afraid."

Others took to social media, with one resident writing: "If Sandwell Council approve this then that proves how much they waste money on stupid projects."

Another added: "There's already plenty of plants in West Bromwich...but they are mainly cannabis plants."

One put: "What an absolute eyesore, is this some sort of joke" while another asked "Is it April 1 already?"

However, another resident said: "It's about time they did something to try and brighten up the area. Positive changes for once yet everyone still puts the boot in."

One commented: "Great idea, they already do this in other countries, Italy and Singapore.

"Much better to look at greenery than concrete and far healthy as plants cleanse the air."

The block - which will be named Wellbeing Tower - will be built by a private developer on the site of a former cinema which closed its doors back in 2002.

There would be basement residential parking for 45 cars, 92 cycles bays, and a second-floor open-air podium garden if the proposals get approved by Sandwell Council.

Councillor Bawa Singh Dhallu, who represents West Bromwich Central, said: “I am not sure myself of the planning into this redevelopment, but I am definitely in favour of regeneration.

“We had a meeting to discuss the redevelopment. No one has put concerns to me yet, but I would be happy to speak on their behalf if they so wished to.”

Paranjit Sehdeva, director of Integrated Designs & Associates Ltd, the architects behind the plans, said: “For this project we did about a year and a half of pre-applications.

"It was difficult with the pandemic and the lockdown but Sandwell Council have worked very well with us, and they supported the application quite thoroughly right the way through the process.

“The idea is to create a living garden on the outside of the building.

"We thought people can't always have gardens in apartment towers, so we'll bring the garden to them, and create a ‘garden atmosphere’ on their balcony, so every single apartment has a garden accessible to them from their balconies.

“We call it the Wellbeing Tower because it is designed around that.

"People should have a place to live, where they may not have access to a big garden, but they have access to a garden facility that will assist them in their living, and as a way of gaining some mental stimulation. It’s important for mental health."