Owner of working mill says building new homes nearby will block breeze

Don’t take the wind out of my sails! Owner of a working mill says plan to build 120 new homes nearby will block the breeze that powers it

  • Jeanette McGarry bought Berkswell Windmill in the West Midlands, in 2005
  • The windmill was a wreck but she spent £200,000 and five years restoring it
  • The land surrounding it has been earmarked for development of 120 houses

It is one of the country’s best examples of a working Georgian windmill.

But its sails might soon stop turning because a housing development could block off the wind, its owner fears.

When Jeanette McGarry bought Berkswell Windmill near Balsall Common, West Midlands, in 2005, it was a wreck but she spent £200,000 and five years restoring it.

Now the Grade II-listed structure, built in 1826, is considered by English Heritage as one of the ‘finest Georgian windmills in Britain’.

When Jeanette McGarry bought Berkswell Windmill near Balsall Common, West Midlands, in 2005, it was a wreck but she spent £200,000 and five years restoring it

But the land surrounding it has been earmarked for a development of 120 two and three-storey houses. It is among 16 greenbelt sites identified by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council after it calculated it needs to build more than 900 homes a year over the next 15 years to meet demand.

Mrs McGarry, 58, has warned the plans would destroy the Meriden Gap – the largely rural area separating Solihull from Coventry – while locals say the proposed site is home to 22 different species of endangered wildlife.

The plans were discussed by the council on Monday and a decision is expected later this year.

But the land surrounding it has been earmarked for a development of 120 two and three-storey houses

Mrs McGarry, a divorced mother of three and local government worker, said ecological studies into the area showed it is ‘so rich in biodiversity that you shouldn’t build on that site… all of the fields on the opposite side of the windmill are part of the plans’.

She added another assessment concluded that the windmill was historically important but views of it would be ruined.

Other research ‘found that if you build there, you’re going to disrupt the flow of the wind and the sails may not turn’, said Mrs McGarry.

The original windmill fell into disrepair in 1948 but since its restoration, it now produces five tonnes of flour a month and provides a visitor centre

The original windmill fell into disrepair in 1948 but since its restoration, it now produces five tonnes of flour a month and provides a visitor centre.

Solihull Council said it ‘reluctantly looked to the greenbelt to provide the homes that are needed’ but chose sites that are ‘not of the highest quality’.

It added the original plans for land near the windmill were for 200 homes but this was ‘scaled back’ to preserve its setting.

Two protesters hold signs at the site of the windmill, protesting about the new development 

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