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SUBURBS FOR SALE - PART TWO

16-02-2010

The Stirrer recently highlighted the threat to the Harborne's Martineau Centre - a thriving community facility at risk of being flogged off to fund prestigious new developments in Birmingham City Centre. The battle to preserve the Martineau - and others like it - continues...

First off, Pete Millington - editor of the Harborne and Edgbaston Gazette - has written to his elected representatives.

Dear Harborne and Quinton councillors

Further to the publicly expressed concerns of local residents in the Quinborne area in regard to the news that the Martineau Centre on Balden Road is on a list of community buildings in the city's suburbs being considered by Birmingham City Council for closure, demolition and sale to private developers, as the editor of the Harborne and Edgbaston Gazette we wish to follow this story up in future editions and would invite you to individually or collectively respond to this issue.

1) Is it true that the Council has a list of 58 buildings / packets of land being considered for closure?

2) If it is true, please can you let us have a copy of this list.

3) Will the Martineau Centre be closed down after the departure of current staff to Woodcock Street and if so what are the Council's plans for the Martineau Centre thereafter?

4) Can you comment on the general condition of the Martineau Centre and confirm or otherwise respond to suggestions by our reliable sources that the building is generally in very good condition. This being so, can you clarify why such a beautiful building of local heritage interest would be considered for demolition?

5) Can you comment on the observation by local sources that Birmingham City Council have decided to close down public buildings and sell land in order to raise funds for more prestigious city centre developments such as the new city centre library?

6) Would you please outline the extent and time frame of public consultation prior to decisions being made to sell off public buildings and land, specifically in regard to the Martineau Centre but on a wider principle in relation to other public buildings.

7) If the Martineau Centre were to be sold, can you tell us what plans will be put in place to maintain it's community use and potential benefit. For instance, is community asset transfer being considered?

8) Please can you explain why community based activities, such as sports and group hire, have been stopped during the past two years. One opinion expressed to The Gazette is that if no one is using the building then the Council will have a more justified reason for closing it down and selling it. You may wish to refute this entirely cynical suggestion and perhaps reassure us that community use of the building will be re-instated forthwith or as soon as new centre management arrangements are in place? Dates would be useful so that we can promote the facilities to the 12,000 local readers of The Gazette.

Our understanding of this situation from our sources is that the closure and subsequent run-down of the Martineau Centre started some two years ago. We would therefore expect the Council's thinking on this matter to be in advance stages and I would therefore encourage you to use the opportunity of a right of reply in the Gazette to be forthright and transparent with the constituents of Harborne and Quinton on this matter.

Yours faithfully

And here are details of a petition presented to the ward committee last night.

Martineau Centre - Petition to Ward Committee presented this evening

PETITION TO WARD COMMITTEE

Councillors Jane J. James, Len Clark, Peter Smallbone

QUINTON WARD

Held on 15 February 2010

Re : Martineau Centre, 74-100 Balden Road, Quinton

Despite many statements to the contrary from Councillors in this ward, it appears that the decision has already been made to sell and demolish for cash (when the market recovers), the beautiful Victorian Martineau Centre. in order to build the New Library or some other City Centre project According to the schedule, Cabinet committee in Council house this month makes the final decision to sell the 58 parcels of land including the Martineau Centre as a disposal in spite of questioning to local councillors over at least two years meetings at Neighbourhood Forums. It was clearly made in 2004, which explains why the swimming pool roof on which the Centre depended for viability was not repaired in 2006 when it became ‘unsafe’.

Will the Ward Committee as a matter of Urgency please question Mr David Fletcher of the Property Department and Mike Whitby, Leader of the Council to establish the exact position of the Martineau Centre. The lack of transparency from local councillors and the Cabinet Office has not served us well in this ward.

It is a good building, in an ideal position for major routes, and provides good accommodation for proper community use. It is much larger than the Quinborne Centre has larger rooms, and has green credentials. (Rated at 37 only just below the 0-25 top rating). The plate denoting this is displayed in the Centre. The possibility of £10M cash for city projects is depriving this community =- the stakeholders of this ward - of a valuable resource. The swimming pool would have been very useful in the 2 and a half year closure until after the Olympic Games when the new Harborne Pool becomes available once more. How many of the alternatives have been closed ‘for health and safety reasons’.

The gym equipment to be moved from the Harborne Swimming Baths would have found a natural home at the Martineau Centre, whereas the Quinborne Centre hasn’t enough room and the Autumn and Spring commencing classes there are likely to suffer curtailment in consequence.

With the projected loss of 7,000 jobs from the City in coming years, 2000 of which reported by the Guardian and as a Radio 4 headline, these jobs lost will include denuding all but a skeleton of the 500 jobs at Martineau centre, to be moved to Woodcock Street . No benefit to Quinton there.

All community use of this building has been stopped without a reason being given, despite its copious use as a venue for major meetings of the Council to inform staff of new plans. Will the Ward Committee please request and require its reopening for Community use in the interim period? For meetings and other events.

It is clear that non-use of the premises has been used as grounds for the eventual closure when the new City Centre premises become available. Let the community have access to prove the validity or otherwise of this assumption. The lack of clarity and timeliness of invoicing for use of the facilities has been a factor, as has the closure of the swimming pool on the complex due to failure of stress tests. Freedom of Information enquiries are being made to assess the validity of estimates for the repair and continued use of this pool.

Mere politeness has prevented local unease to grow into outrage at the loss of this facility as it is larger and more useful for many activities than is the Quinborne Centre. Though the loss of that too would be a local disaster.

Cc Quinton Ward committee

Martineau Ten

Rwth Hunt

The Martineau Ten

http://www.yourmartineaucampus.co.uk/

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