Birmingham spotlight – part 1

by

Corruption or incompetence? You decide.

Whistleblowers punished, guilty go scot free.

582 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath,
former tram depot and Class 2 listed building

(Click to see the photo in its original context and read Martin Mullaney’s article Planners wave white flag over listed buildings.)

Let me declare my interest. I have a soft spot for old Balsall Heath, a run down area of solidly built victorian artisan housing in Birmingham which the City’s planners have largely demolished and replaced with anonymous multi storey flats. Unfortunately there’s ‘more jobs for the boys’ in demolition and wholesale redevelopment than in sensitive refurbishment.

A developer has ripped up floors, undermined foundations and made unauthorised alterations to Balsall Heath’s Grade II-listed former tram depot, in Moseley. Planning officers knew what was happening but took no enforcement action. So two Moseley councillors, (Liberal Democrats) Martin Mullaney and Ernie Hendricks made a video which they posted YouTube highlighting the damage.

Was the developer, Safdar Zaman, fined or otherwise punished? Not a bit of it! Instead planning officers drew up a plan which would allow the building’s conversion to offices to continue. Their plan was approved, following a heated debate at the Council’s Planning Committe, by seven votes to four. One of the four opposers, Coun Mike Sharpe (Lab, Tyburn) said: We shouldn’t let people do what they want to a building and get away with it. What’s the point of a planning committee making rules if developers just ignore them? His colleague Coun Keith Linnecor (Lab, Oscott) added: Where is the enforcement? He should be made to put it right, then come to us for planning permission. We might as well not give protection to historic buildings.

And what of the two councillors who blew the whistle? They were hauled before the Council’s Standards Board and severely reprimanded. They were made to take the video down from You Tube. Councillor Hendricks has served a suspension, while Councillor Mullaney is awaiting the outcome of an appeal. It seems that the Standard’s Board is unaware that ‘social necessity’ has been used successfully as a defence to the charge of tresspass.

If you think that the two Councillors have received a raw deal, then you could send them both e-mails of support. Their e-mails are:

mullaney3(at)blueyonder.co.uk and
Ernie.Hendricks(at)birmingham.gov.uk

If a city, which is at the centre of Britain’s industrial history, treats its industrial heritage assets in such a cavalier fashion, what hope is there for preservation projects elsewhere? If you agree with me you that Birmingham City Council should treat their industrial heritage with greater respect you could write to the Leader of the City Council, Mike Whitby

Fax: 0121 303 5098
Email: Mike.Whitby(at)birmingham.gov.uk

In each case replace the “(at)” with the ampersand symbol.

More information:

Birmingham Mail – Fury over Moseley Tram Depot
The Stirrer – Destroyed, by officialdom
The Stirrer Forum – Tram Depot Debacle

Aston Manor Road Transport Museum,
a Birmingham tram depot that survived

(Click to go to Museum website.)

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