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Although some parts of the city’s canals, like Gas Street are protected, Cambrian Basin and the Farmers Flight of locks are not, nor are many other parts of the City’s Canals. In fact Dr Ted Hiscock says although Birmingham claims to have more canals than Birmingham, just eight per cent are protected by Conservation Orders and he wants to see that rise to 30 per cent before the Commonwealth Games is hosted in the city in 2022.
Ted Hiscock, a GP in the city for four decades and now a respected artist, says: “This travesty seems to be a disease of Birmingham, while other places with canals have been more fortunate and more forward-thinking.”
He argues that: “Cambrian Basin and the Farmers Flight of Locks are unique, it is historically and archaeologically of immense value to the formation of our great industrial city. The creation of the 1960s Civic Close, is a conception that is unique in Birmingham where a canal basin with residential moored boats, a canal side Pub, four tower blocks, a parkland of specifically planted trees and walkways are all cheek by jowl with six late 18th century Grade 2 Listed canal side mews cottages, namely Kingston Row, the link with the industrial past of Birmingham’s canals.”
Now he has produced a long academic paper that is a plea to Birmingham City Council, Canal & River Trust and Historic England to protect the city’s canals – although the response so far has not been inspiring.
He told The Floater: “ I have only yesterday sent a copy of this paper to Bashir Ahmed, (C&RT’s new Regional Director for the West Midlands) who promises it shall be forwarded to the heritage unit. Also, I took it to Birmingham’s ONLY Conservation Officer, who implied it doesn’t stand a chance of receiving recommendation by The Council, nor for that matter, the saving of The Flapper.
“I have made an application to Historic England to list the Farmers Flight of locks and that shabby organisation have sent me the standard refusal letter, saying it is not a National Monument and has no historical heritage.
“It is impossible to motivate any of our established organisations during times of austerity.”
Ted believes the planning bid has opened Pandora’s Box showing the lack of official protection for the canals of Birmingham. “Subsequently, research demonstrated very few kilometres of Birmingham canals are protected by conservation, and some of those that are designated are neglected.”
He believes that the 2022, Commonwealth Games is bringing thousands of extra visitors, but argues: “Birmingham is a mess of building sites, litter is everywhere, rough sleepers who beg day and night have become the norm, the canals are a dumping ground for supermarket trolleys, fast food containers and Graffiti. Few seem to notice or care.
“Can we not find some pride to clean this city, maintain the cleanliness and have leadership from the city council and inner-city residents who love living here? This applies to our greatest asset; the canals. This proposal suggests that the central city canals are placed in a designated Conservation Area; perhaps ‘Birmingham Central Canal Conservation Area’. They fulfil all the criteria and such a proposal would establish a target to aim for prior to the Commonwealth Games”.
Ted wants to extend the canals under conservation by 12km, taking the city network under a designated Conservation Area to 17km (still just 30 per cent of the acknowledged lengths of city’s navigable canals).
Those affected would be:
• Birmingham & Wolverhampton 2.5km
• Icknield Loop 1.25km
• Soho Loop 2.25km
• Birmingham & Fazeley 2.25km
• Digbeth Loop 0.75km
• Birmingham & Worcester 3km
• TOTAL 12.0KM
• If the Lapal Canal from Selly Oak (by Battery Park junction) to Weoley Castle were to be included, a further 2.25km would be added.
Ted is now gathering public support for the idea from C&RT, MPs, National Trust, the BBC, Heritage England and local people.