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JEWELLERY QUARTER SAVED - FOR NOW

24-08-2006

Birmingham Council's planning committee has put off a decision about a controversial scheme for the Jewellery Quarter which critics says would “open the floodgates” to yet more yuppie flats and kill off traditional industry.

The plan involves the relocation of the A E Harris engineering works in Northwood Street, allowing for the creation of 151 new apartments.

If the council does give the go-ahead it would represent a massive U-turn on current policy, as the Harris site is in a conservation zone forbidding new dwellings.

Council officers had recommended that the plan be approved, with certain restrictions, and then passed on to the government for the final say-so.

But Cllr David Roy, the committee chair, decided to put off a decision because it was clear though that several councillors had serious reservations - not least because the scheme seems to contradict the Jewellery Quarter charter to which the local authority signed only a few months ago.

If the plan does get approval, the council is trying to build in safeguards for the existing 62 staff at A E Harris, and ensure they relocate in Birmingham.

It's also claimed that new offices on the site would create 450 new jobs in areas such as design and marketing which are complementary to the jewellery trade.

But as committee member Cllr Douglas Osborn put it: “We are not a rubber stamping committee”, and a range of objections cropped up.

Wouldn't this plan encourage more developers to plead a “special case” and lead to more applications of a similar nature?

And wouldn't the development drive up land prices, and so drive out existing small concerns?

Why was none of the propsed new housing deemed “affordable”?

And can A E Harris be trusted to deliver their side of the bargain?

It remains to be seen whether these questions can be answered to the satisfaction of councillors.

Until then, campaigners can claim a partial - if temporary - victory.

Previously on The Stirrer....

THREE MINUTES TO SAVE THE JEWELLERY QUARTER 24-08-2006

ENGLISH HERITAGE TARNISHES JEWELLERY QUARTER 17-08-2006

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