Birmingham: the less glamorous side

posted in: Observations | 0

Regular readers of this blog might have the impression that Birmingham is filled with splendidly maintained examples of architectural heritage, as I try to liven up mapping on the ground by centering surveying trips around them. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Owning a listed building is an onerous (i.e  expensive) undertaking. Whilst wealthy businesses and individuals, and large state institutions can enjoy the prestige that occupying such buildings confers upon them, for others it’s more of a struggle. Often the National Trust or English Heritage have to step in and rescue buildings that are in peril. But their budgets are not limitless so few can be rescued in this way. Birmingham Civic Society also does its best to preserve listed buildings that are in danger within the City, but with even more limited funds.

Not only are owners restricted on how they can adapt and extend their buildings, in order to maintain their architectural integrity, but they are often restricted to using original materials. Original materials are rare or non-existent and have to be specially manufactured, sourcing both of which is expensive. Then craftsmen skilled in using such materials have to be found and hired, again at premium rates. All this makes the planning process even longer and more complicated than usual, adding to project timelines and costs.

It’s not surprising then that some owners just give up and let these building slide into decay, as some of these pictures show. The building covered in scaffolding is to prevent it collapsing, not an indication it’s being refurbished. The buildings shown here are all within a 5 minute walk within the Jewellery Quarter, which las led to a whole area becoming blighted as far as development is concerned. (Generally the Jewellery Quarter’s large and varied population of listed buildings is very well-maintained and has been the subject of previous blogs). Trying to persuade developers to enter such areas is yet another headache suffered by City Council planners.

The cynical amongst us might well suggest that the owners are hoping that the building eventually has to be demolished purely for safety reasons, which then gives them a free hand to develop the site.

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