Fears for Jew­ellery Quar­ter firms Back­lash from small busi­nesses as coun­cil re­veals sell-off of his­toric build­ings

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Zoe Cham­ber­lain Staff Re­porter

HIS­TORIC parts of Birm­ing­ham’s fa­mous Jew­ellery Quar­ter are to be sold off to de­vel­op­ers, spark­ing a back­lash by crafts­men who fear be­ing driven out.

Jewellers and crafts­men in the area are wor­ried by the sale of sev­eral old prop­er­ties in the Vyse Street Tri­an­gle, Caro­line Street, Pits­ford Street and Sum­mer Hill Ter­race.

Plans for the sale were re­vealed in a ‘Birm­ing­ham Sites Prospec­tus’ com­piled by the city coun­cil.

But ten­ants fear the move could threaten their busi­nesses un­less they stump up the cash to buy the prop­er­ties them­selves.

“Peo­ple are heart­bro­ken,” said Marie Had­dle­ton, 89, of cam­paign group Jew­ellery Quar­ter Her­itage, who was born in the dis­trict.

“Some of these peo­ple have been in the Jew­ellery Quar­ter for more than 40 years so you can imag­ine how wor­ried they are.

“They are small busi­nesses – to try to get them to buy their own premises, well, they haven’t got the money to do it.”

Jew­ellery Quar­ter watch­maker Re­becca Struthers said: “A lot of peo­ple are af­fected by this. The worst thing is no-one knows ex­actly what’s go­ing on. All we’ve had is a let­ter from the coun­cil say­ing they are sell­ing cer­tain build­ings.

“It’s a huge bur­den in the run-up to Christ­mas – our busiest time.

“Peo­ple don’t know if they are about to be evicted be­cause there’s not been much com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“We’ve asked for a pub­lic meet­ing with the coun­cil. It would be good to have this as there are so many ru­mours, it’s mak­ing peo­ple very wor­ried. It’s hard to know if the ru­mours are valid or whether the new land­lords will re­spect the ex­ist­ing ten­ancy agree­ments.”

Ms Had­dle­ton added: “These days we do not em­ploy thou­sands of peo­ple be­cause of modern tech­nol­ogy but we’re known world­wide for what we do in the Jew­ellery Quar­ter, and we want it to stay that way.

“As far as I’m aware the coun­cil has to stick to the leg­is­la­tion plan for the Jew­ellery Quar­ter which was part of the con­ser­va­tion man­age­ment plan. It states that cer­tain ar­eas are not al­lowed to be used for hous­ing.

“We need busi­nesses.”

In the fore­word to speak up to the for small Birm­ing- ham Sites Prospec­tus, Coun­cil Leader Ian Ward and cor­po­rate di­rec­tor for econ­omy, Wa­heed Nazir, write: “We have an am­bi­tious agenda for Birm­ing­ham, which will see the city’s pop­u­la­tion grow by 150,000 over the next 15 years, with 100,000 new jobs cre­ated and over £4 bil­lion of in­fras­truc­ture de­liv­ered.

“Our vi­sion is to cre­ate a city of in­clu­sive growth where every child, ci­ti­zen and place mat­ters.

“As the largest lo­cal au­thor­ity in the coun­try – with the big­gest prop­erty port­fo­lio – we have the op­por­tu­nity to utilise the coun­cil’s prop­erty and land as­sets in a strate­gic way to de­liver our pri­or­i­ties. By launch­ing the Birm­ing­ham Sites Prospec­tus, we are tak­ing a long-term strate­gic ap­proach to how we utilise our unique as­set base, en­sur­ing we max­imise com­mer­cial and so­cial re­turns by re-align­ing the city coun­cil’s prop­erty to act as a cat­a­lyst for devel­op­ment and un­der­pin the so­cial fab­ric of com­mu­ni­ties across the city.”

The prospec­tus prom­ises an “un­prece­dented pe­riod of change fu­elled by ma­jor in­vest­ment.”

A Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil spokes­woman told the Post: “Vyse Street Tri­an­gle is one of nine sites be­ing of­fered for sale by in­for­mal ten­der, hav­ing been iden­ti­fied as hav­ing the po­ten­tial to sup­port hous­ing growth and job cre­ation in Birm­ing­ham.

“This par­tic­u­lar site is be­ing sold as a lease­hold and this in­cludes ex­ist­ing ten­an­cies, pro­tected un­der the Land­lord and Ten­ant Act for the du­ra­tion of their ten­ancy.”

The coun­cil has set the clos­ing date for fi­nal of­fers on Jan­uary 4, 2019.

There will then be a Cab­i­net de­ci­sion to ac­cept of­fers on Fe­bru­ary 19, 2019, with a plan ex­change con­tracts a month later.

> Marie Had­dle­ton, of cam­paign group Jew­ellery Quar­ter Her­itage, fears for small busi­nesses in the area

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