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