A ‘mark of origin’ could protect the Potteries

Dear Editor, Tristram Hunt MP is absolutely right to highlight the damage that ‘bogus’ back stamps cause to the North Staffordshire ceramics industry (Bogus ‘made in Britain’ brand is damaging region’s firms – Post March 7).

We already use mark of origin in the food industry in order to protect consumers and producers. Ceramic tableware should be no different. Consumers deserve the right to know exactly what they are buying and where it came from. They should be in the position to make an informed choice.

Staffordshire firms have always used back stamps. They do so because they are proud of their products. It is a mark of quality which is trusted by consumers. The European Parliament and the European Commission recognise that fact as well. That is why they both support mark of origin proposals for ceramic goods manufactured outside the EU.

Regrettably, the UK Government does not seem to recognise this fact. Otherwise they would be pushing in the EU Council of Ministers to accept Mark of Origin proposals. The official line is that our Government is “cautious about adopting a legislative approach to origin labelling of manufactured goods”. This caution is in marked contrast to those who import foreign ceramic goods from outside the EU, finish them off and then stamp “Made in England” on the bottom! Mandatory mark of origin regulations would stop this. That is why my European Parliamentary Labour Party colleagues and I will continue to put pressure on the UK Government to support EU mark of origin regulations.

Michael Cashman

Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands.

Co-President of the European Parliament Ceramics Forum 

History repeating itself as spirit of Manzoni lives on

Dear Editor, We can look back at Herbert Manzoni and regard him as representative of a misguided and regretted period or urban transformation, but we should not do so complacently. (The man who changed the face of Birmingham, Post, March 7)

The attitudes which he embodied are still alive and active in Birmingham today. Manzoni dismissed the ideas of conservation and reuse as being anti-progressive, with his nonsensical rhetoric about “forging ahead, rather then looking backward”, but there are some in the city council today who are still motivated by this rhetoric.

The recent history of decisions taken by the council on architectural conservation does not exactly indicate a council which fully understands the significance and importance of sustainable conservation.

The prime example of this is the Central Library of 1974. In all the political parties there is an undiscriminating blindness to the merits of the architecture of Manzoni’s period, exactly parallel to the undiscriminating blindness of Manzoni and his contemporaries to the merits of Victorian architecture. Manzoni’s period admittedly produced little architecture of merit, but in John Madin’s Central Library Birmingham has one of the finest buildings from the 1970s anywhere in the country.

Various arguments have been produced as to why it should be demolished rather than sensibly reused, all of which have been refuted by the Friends of the Library and the Twentieth Century Society. But the underlying reality is that the politicians of all parties hate it. They hate it because it reminds them of a period with which they do not wish to be associated, just as Manzoni and his masters in the 1960s hated Victorian architecture because they wished to dissociate themselves from 19th century Birmingham.

We have long ago come out of the historical shadow which was cast by the 19th century, and we can appreciate the qualities of Victorian architecture, or what is left of it, unprejudiced by political considerations of the day.

Exactly the same will happen to the architecture of the 1960s and 1970s; this is the inevitable historical process which happens in all generations. If we continue to follow Manzoni’s example of wholesale removal, driven by dogma, we and our children and grandchildren will be the poorer for it.

Joe Holyoak, Birmingham

Architect and urban designer


Dear Editor, Manzoni’s legacy poses an unpalatable lesson for our civic leaders; they must stop imposing their egos on the lives of thousands of citizens and on large swathes of the city’s real estate.

Unfortunately, however, the spirit of Manzoni still lives on in high places; Mike Whitby, aided by Clive Dutton, bought a ‘Big City Plan’ and insisted on erecting a new library that is far too big than it need be and which overwhelms its neighbours in Centenary Square. Albert Bore dreams of demolishing every building in Paradise Circus and imposing a new master plan on the cleared site.

Both of them should remember that their plans are only the latest in a series of unfinished master plans for grand civic centres. Baskerville House is the remnant of one, the Central Library and School of Music the remains of another. Master plans tend not to get finished because crises like wars and economic recessions get in the way.

There was a better approach in the 1980s when Birmingham’s carefully constructed locally-based Urban Renewal programme replaced large-scale slum clearance.

Residents of inner city neighbourhoods were asked if they wanted to stay and refurbish their houses with help from the government. No civic leader was given a knighthood for this work. It was not glamorous, but the painstaking backroom work kept communities intact.

The careful interweaving of the new with the old is a conservationist approach that calls for humility, but that, sadly, is a quality seldom found in our elected representatives and their advisors.

Alan Clawley, Birmingham

(Author of Twentieth Century

Architects: John Madin)

Wilberforce house is not ideal for community use

Dear Editor, The city has demonstrated that it is unable to maintain Rookery House due to lack of funds – so spending a fortune on a refurbishment so they can use it and then not maintain it seems like a total waste of money. (Council to sell off historic hall, Post, March 7)

The house was designed as a place to live in, not for community purposes. Sell the house to builders who will refurbish it, convert it to apartments, develop on the depot land, give the proceeds to the city so they can create community facilities designed for that purpose and have money in the bank for running costs.

Having a community use in a listed building with high ceilings, poor insulation and thereby very high running costs is not what the city should be doing.

As a condition of the sale the developer would commit to build the new community facility and refurbish Rookery House before being allowed to start work on the housing.

Chris Lea, By Email

Rumours of HS2 depot in Warwickshire are false

Dear Editor, I am passionately against high speed rail 2 (HS2). I was horrified when Tory MP Mr Dan Byles spread rumours that the HS2 marshalling yard would end up in North Warwickshire.

I contacted senior Labour officials and politicians, to find out what was going on. I can confirm that there are no plans from the Labour Party – and never have been any plans – to put the marshalling yard in North Warwickshire.

North Warwickshire Borough Council is firmly against HS2 and against its marshalling yard.

Under my leadership the Labour Council has allocated £80,000 of our budget to help fund the legal challenges against HS2. We will fight for North Warwickshire.

Liam Byrne can speak for his Hodge Hill constituency, but he has no right to say where the marshalling yard will go.

I am more disappointed with the North Warwickshire MP though. Dan Byles has tried to make mischief and to worry local people, rather than helping them.

Once again he has branded rumour as fact and played party political games over HS2.

A couple of weeks ago he had a go at me for criticising his government’s decision to extend HS2 through North Warwickshire. He said I was being party political. Now he attacks Labour when it suits him. It is pure hypocrisy.

Dan Byles has struggled since the Tory-led government decided last month to extend HS2 through North Warwickshire and I suppose this rumour is intended to deflect criticism of him.

Mr Byles needs to stop playing silly political games, get a grip and begin to stand up for North Warwickshire.

Councillor Mick Stanley

Leader of North Warwickshire

Borough Council