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A POINT OF VIEW

21-03-2007

Andy Goff has got Birmingham University's clocktower in his sights. Or at least he used to before building work wrecked one of the city's great views.

In the twenty five years I spent living away from Birmingham a lot has changed, Bingley Hall replaced by Brindlyplace, the canals transformed from rubbish tips into waterside attractions with “beach-front” properties and dramatic changes to the 60s Bull Ring all confirm the good burghers of Birmingham's desire to thrust the city forward. Beetham Tower and the anticipated V Building help to give the city a sense of style and progress.

So much of the old has gone or is going - swept up in a late start feverish dash for modernity - but some of the changes are not necessarily an aesthetic improvement.

The view from my bedroom window across allotments and Cannon Hill Park is one I have enjoyed for over four years. It compensated for losing the view I used to have of the South Downs before the Brighton Bypass was so carelessly constructed.

On a clear day I can lie in bed and tell the time by the clock on the tower in the middle of the Birmingham University campus. Standing as a sentinel it seems to act as a reminder that time waits for no man and marches on relentlessly.

Constructed between 1900 and 1908 - the years not the twenty four hour clock - the 100 metre tower, among whose nicknames is “Old Joe” after the London born doyen of Victorian civic excellence Joseph Chamberlain, is now being diminished by building work.

I presume the constructions going up behind the tower are either new places of education or fulfilling the need to house our burgeoning student population. Either way they diminish the grandeur of what was, until 1969, the tallest building in Birmingham.

What a shame that one of the iconic views of Birmingham has been wrecked by poor planning and by what is seen as progress - did no one have the foresight to consider the loss of aspect?

My consolation is that the likelihood of the new buildings being as soundly constructed as “Old Joe” will mean that the next generation of town planners will have to pull them down in twenty years and then they'll return the tower to its isolated glory.

You can see the “before and after” pictures on the The Stirrer's photo album page here.

Is this a fair price to pay for progress? Leave a comment on the Miscellaneous section of our messageboard.

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