Political leaders of Birmingham City Council are fighting a rearguard action in an attempt to defend their decision to abolish the Gun Quarter.
Following a cabinet decision to re-name the historic gun making area the St George and St Chad’s Quarter, the council said it would be amending the Big City Plan to “more accurately reflect” a far smaller gun quarter than the area traditionally associated with arms production for 250 years.
Amended drawings have been released showing St George and St Chad’s Quarter occupying all of the land formerly known as the Gun Quarter.
A small part of that area, around Loveday Street and Bagot Street, will continue to be called the Gun Quarter.
A decision to save the Gun Quarter, albeit in a watered down form, was taken by cabinet regeneration member Tim Huxtable.
But reputational damage had already been inflicted on Birmingham, with national criticism of the “politically correct” re-naming of the Gun Quarter.
The cabinet meeting heard from Coun Huxtable (Con Bournville) that consultation into the Big City Plan uncovered considerable local opposition to living in an area branded for its gun making trade.
A petition signed by 50 people, backed by neighbourhood forums, demanded a more appropriate name which did not promote weaponry and did not mention guns which was felt to be inappropriate given Birmingham’s involvement in drug-related gang warfare.
Coun Huxtable insisted that the Gun Quarter would live on in the same way that the Chinese and Irish Quarters are part of much larger areas.
He said: “The historic Gun Quarter is included in, and continues to be part of, the much larger and wider area of St George and St Chad’s, which incorporates an area much bigger than the historic Gun Quarter, that is out to the ring road at New John Street West, and more accurately reflects the entire area rather than just one section of the area.
“No signposts referring to the Gun Quarter are being changed nor any other changes, such as to the Gun Quarter controlled parking zone, are being made as the council still recognises the historic Gun Quarter, just as the council still recognise the Chinese and Irish Quarters, even though no areas within the Big City Plan are large enough to carry these names.
“What we are doing, as we have done elsewhere in the Big City Plan is to include quarters within larger areas. The Chinese Quarter is included as part of the Southside and Highgate area and the Irish Quarter as part of the Digbeth area.”
The compromise was described as “ludicrous” by opposition Labour leader Sir Albert Bore, who was the first person to raise the issue at the cabinet.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: “This is ridiculous. We are making ourselves look foolish and the best thing to do is restore the Gun Quarter in full.
“Everywhere I go, people are talking about this. Birmingham has been made to look stupid.”
Graham Scott, who followed his father Robert and grandfather Ernest to work at the Gun Barrel Proof House, in Banbury Street, described plans to rename the historic Gun Quarter as ‘barmy’.
The 75-year-old widower, who worked in the quarter in the 60s as a receiver, said: “It certainly earned the name Gun Quarter, it was the established trade and it is still part of Birmingham’s history. It was there long before any of these councillors were born.
‘‘My father and grandfather would be turning in their graves. It’s barmy.”
Mr Scott, who now lives near the Maypole, spent 31 years on the production line at Land Rover after working at the Gun Barrel Proof House.