Fail­ure to pro­tect his­toric ar­eas of city ‘a dis­grace’

Coun­cil­lors con­demn plan to ditch con­ser­va­tion ar­eas af­ter years of ne­glect by au­thor­ity

Birmingham Post - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Govern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

CON­SER­VA­TION ar­eas could be ditched be­cause the coun­cil has al­lowed too many his­toric build­ings to be al­tered. Old parts of North­field, such as the ‘Austin Vil­lage’, and Bordes­ley Green’s ‘Ideal Vil­lage’, are among those which coun­cil of­fi­cers deem are no longer wor­thy of pro­tec­tion.

But the de­ci­sion has an­gered coun­cil­lors on the city’s plan- ning com­mit­tee. Chair­man Mike Sharpe, said: “We as a city have been so weak in look­ing af­ter our con­ser­va­tion ar­eas. We have been a dis­grace to be quite hon­est.”

BIRM­ING­HAM City Coun­cil has been branded a “dis­grace” for years of fail­ure to pro­tect the city’s her­itage.

Plan­ning com­mit­tee chair­man Coun­cil­lor Mike Sharpe was scathing of his own au­thor­ity’s record of car­ing for its his­toric neigh­bour­hoods af­ter the com­mit­tee launched con­sul­ta­tion to scrap two con­ser­va­tion ar­eas.

The out­burst came as of­fi­cers pro­posed scrap­ping the ‘Austin Vil­lage’ in North­field and ‘Ideal Vil­lage’ in Bordes­ley Green as it was re­vealed 95 per cent of home­own­ers had re­placed Vic­to­rian sash win­dows with UPVC dou­ble glaz­ing.

In a ma­jor­ity of prop­er­ties front doors had been re­placed, porches added, brick­work ren­dered or painted over, bound­ary walls knocked down and mod­ern drive­ways laid – mean­ing lit­tle of the his­toric char­ac­ter could now jus­tify con­ser­va­tion area sta­tus.

The des­ig­na­tion is meant to pro­tect the char­ac­ter of parts of Birm­ing­ham and places lim­its on what can be built or added, in­clud­ing ban­ning fea­tures like plas­tic win­dow frames and large ex­ten­sions.

But Cllr Sharpe (Lab, Ty­burn), who or­dered the re­view of the city’s ar­eas, blamed a lack of en­force­ment by coun­cil of­fi­cers.

Mr Sharpe said: “We as a city have been so weak in look­ing af­ter our con­ser­va­tion ar­eas. We should take a look at our­selves. We have been a dis­grace to be quite hon­est.

“If we are go­ing to en­force con­ser­va­tion and are go­ing to do it as a com­mit­tee then we have to be pre­pared to stand by what we say and not get the wob­bles be­cause of what some peo­ple are say­ing to you.”

Mr Sharpe was re­fer­ring to a fail­ure of coun­cil plan­ners to stop res­i­dents modernising their homes, lead­ing to a domino ef­fect as whole streets are trans­formed and lose their char­ac­ter.

Plan­ning com­mit­tee col­league Cllr Barry Hen­ley (Lab, Brand­wood) added: “There is no point in de­fend­ing con­ser­va­tion ar­eas which have be­come mean­ing­less as the Austin and Ideal Vil­lage have.”

He added that the coun­cil “un­der­mines its own au­thor­ity” when it does not en­force con­ser­va­tion ar­eas. “We should not give an inch,” he added.

The re­view looked at all 30 of Birm­ing­ham’s con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and pro­poses al­ter­ing bound­aries in some, merg­ing oth­ers and pos­si­bly cre­at­ing two new ones at Acocks Green and We­o­ley Hill.

Res­i­dents and com­mu­nity groups in Acocks Green have since 2008 been col­lect­ing ev­i­dence to es­tab­lish their case – but they have be­come frus­trated at the slow progress.

Ju­lia Lar­den, of the Acocks Green Fo­cus Group, said they wanted more clar­ity from the plan­ning depart­ment about what was re­quired of them.

Plan­ning com­mit­tee mem­ber Gareth Moore (Cons, Erd­ing­ton) said con­ser­va­tion ar­eas should not be can­celled just be­cause the coun­cil has failed to en­force them.

“Times change and cer­tain things

We as a city have been so weak in look­ing af­ter our con­ser­va­tion ar­eas Plan­ning com­mit­tee chair­man, Coun­cil­lor Mike Sharpe, above

like putting in drive­ways for ex­am­ple is not the most dam­ag­ing of fea­tures, par­tic­u­larly if it’s tak­ing cars off the road or deal­ing with mod­ern liv­ing.”

He said res­i­dents in his Erd­ing­ton ward, which had an abun­dance of his­toric build­ings, had asked to be con­sid­ered but were told that no new ar­eas could be con­sid­ered.

“I don’t see why we should be pro­ceed­ing with con­ser­va­tion ar­eas for Acocks Green and We­o­ley Hill and not Erd­ing­ton,” he added.

He has now called for his dis­trict to be con­sid­ered.

> the con­ser­va­tion area sta­tus of the ‘ideal Vil­lage’ in Bordes­ley Green could be ditched

> The ‘Austin Vil­lage’ con­ser­va­tion area near Long­bridge is to be scrapped

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