While agreeing that “the Paradise Project is a fiasco” (no name and address Post letter 29 Nov 2018) I draw a somewhat different conclusion as to who is to blame. I also think that Jonathon Walker’s article (Post 29th Nov) should perhaps have been titled “Council anger with Amey”. However Carl Jackson’s article (Post 22 Nov 2018) is very revealing and there is so much for us to learn from this disaster of a development.
It is of course questionable as to whether Birmingham City Council (BCC) should be seeking partnerships, or employ, the likes of Capita, Carillion, and Amey. They have proved a very costly exercise. And why should we trust Argent, the present managers of this development? Such companies and unelected organisations such as the LEP and PCLP (mysterious bodies to most of us) are out of BCC control, and unaccountable to the residents of Birmingham.
It does beg the question as to why we continue to demolish perfectly good existing buildings and spaces (offices, hotels, parking spaces, public spaces, shops, restaurants and cafes etc) only to replace them with the same. After all, this requires a huge amount of embedded energy and contributes to climate change. A good example is the Central Library. The original plan of architect John Madin for its setting was ignored, it was done on the cheap, and then successive administrations (Tory, Lib Dem and Labour) neglected and failed to maintain it. Even so, the cost of refurbishing was estimated at £38m while the new one has so far cost more than £100m. The new one has resulted in a drastic reduction in staff hours with an opening time of 11.00 a.m. – hardly a “world class” facility/service as originally claimed! Further, it has led to the closure of the unique Brasshouse Languages Centre building and the transfer of its language classes (with the recent loss of English as a Foreign Language classes). The fee payments are presumably helping to fund the Library but the classrooms do not adequately meet the students’ needs.
Another farcical aspect of the Paradise Project is its treatment of public spaces. Centenary Square is being dug up yet again but the new version will be quite inferior to its original “gardens” ancestor.
My conclusion is that BCC should avoid private/public joint ventures and it should restrain those senior officers who currently work hand in glove with developers. We should once again give the councils the in-house resources they need to carry out the restoration, reuse, recycling, repair, refurbishment and maintenance of existing buildings. Lots of permanent jobs would then be created.
Letter printed in the Birmingham Post 6 December 2018
(Peter Beck was the Green Party candidate for Allens Cross in the 2018 local elections)