Urban Quarter Regeneration – Jewellery Quarter

On October 10 a presentation was arranged at the School of Jewellery by The Princes Foundation to view the past, present and future success (or otherwise) of ‘Urban Neighbourhoods’.

The Partnership still comprises the Princes Foundation/Advantage West Midlands/City Council). There is now a top ‘Partnership Group’ where the new Chairman, David Warburton of The Princes Foundation, at last appears to be the right man for the job; an Executive Committee chaired by Paul Spooner and several sub-committees. We have at least two full time officers, about six part-time officers, our own planning officer, plus people from Advantage West Midlands and The Princes Foundation dedicating some of their time to the Jewellery Quarter. There is also chatter about a further two officers! One can now imagine that with all this attention, something will start to ‘happen’ in the Quarter?

Some four years after the launch of the Urban Village the only real activity so far has been the massive amount of work in the way of surveys etc., that has been necessary to set up the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Management Plan and change planning legislation in order to preserve the buildings and businesses in the Jewellery Quarter from marauding developers, caused when planning legislation against residential use (in effect since the 1960s) had been lifted by the adoption of the Urban Village scheme without giving proper consideration to the consequences! The Partnership now admit publicly that they ‘got it wrong’ and say that with hindsight they would have done things differently!

It was mentioned that it was most unfortunate that within days of announcing to the media that Millions of Pounds were to be spent on regeneration of The Jewellery Quarter, the funding disappeared. AWM picked up the pieces from English Partnerships and are doing their best with what funds are available.

AWM funded the move to St Paul’s Square of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; they sponsor The Training Quarter and the newly opened ‘Signpost’ shop and they are also encouraging the refurbishment of one or two derelict buildings. The group also went on a walkabout in the Quarter (no doubt to look at the streaky bacon building, ‘the row of railway carriages’, ‘the prison’ and the ‘quarry tiled building with carbuncles’. Incidentally, a sort of Design Group has now been established so there is a chance that future building designs and materials will be in line with the traditional buildings in the area!

With the new Planning Legislation in place, the future of The Jewellery Quarter is more secure than it was four years ago and the Partnership seems a much more workable proposition than it did, but there is still a lot to be done – but at least the Jewellery Quarter business community is now included fully in the working of the ‘Partnership’ and you can depend on The Jewellery Quarter Association being there to see that they stick to the script!

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