Dear Editor, Joe Holyoak (Birmingham Post letters, May 7) is a good architect, and an able lecturer, but even he must realise that not all architects would concur. If it were so, then we would not have such a range of designs from other architects in response to our offers to tender.

When he criticises our staff as "a weak conservation team, who are unable to effectively defend urban quality", then I must strongly disagree.

The planning process is a response to an application by developers. Planning decisions are taken on the basis of consultation, and weigh into account all relevant matters that are brought to the committee's attention, including those from the urban design section.

Part of that consultation is a response (frequently robust) from the city's conservation team, and the conservation and heritage panel, of which I am chairman. Mr Holyoak should know that neither staff nor panel have yet considered the application he raises, and, until they have, are unable to respond to his objections.

This is normal process, and no comment will, or should, be made until the item is referred to us.

Thus to condemn, at this point, people who have not made their views known, is at best naive, and at worst, counterproductive.

I would counsel Mr Holyoak to criticise the development in the normal way, and not the hard-pressed staff, whom one day he may wish to have as allies. Put another way, if one wishes to travel by ship, it is unwise to antagonise the sailors before even leaving port.


by email


Were you a link in Jubilee human chain?

Ten years ago this coming weekend, I managed an event called the Jubilee 2000 Human Chain. It took place in Birmingham at the G8 Summit held in the city and some 100,000 people took part from across the UK and further afield.

The chain of thousands around the city centre was assembled to draw the attention of the world's most powerful leaders to the injustice of debt in third world countries and to urge them to take immediate action to remit that debt - debt that accrues more interest than the countries concerned are able to generate and therefore can never repay.

Before the demonstration on May 16, 1998, world debt relief had not been on the G8 leaders' agenda. After the protest by so many had been seen in news coverage across the world, the issue not only went to the top of that agenda but was also the cause of a special G8 report, the first in that organisation's history.

The Drop the Debt campaign has been an incredible success - in the past ten years the G8, World Bank and IMF have taken action and $88 billion of debt has been remitted.

To put that into context, Live Aid raised $200 million. But action on debt has to continue as there remains $400 billion still to be written off, interest on which costs the world's 100 poorest countries more than $100 million every day, precluding investment in health, education and other basic resources.

The common sense of remitting these unpayable debts is strikingly obvious and could be, should be, actioned immediately to release the countries concerned from indebted poverty.

I'm returning to Birmingham this coming 10th anniversary weekend and my goal is to meet the team involved in organising the chain.

I've lost contact with some members, so if that includes you then do come along and join us at Carr's Lane Church Centre at 12.30pm on Sunday, May 18. We overcame tremendous odds to make the chain the success it was and it will be wonderful to see you all again and to celebrate that achievement 10 years on.

For some of us, the human chain was a defining moment. For those countries that have benefited from debt remission achieved as a direct result of that day's action and all the activities since, it was even more significant.

Details of Sunday's events can be found at

For the 98 event see also


Vale of Belvoir


Anti-toff campaign smacks of desperation

Dear Editor, Your newspaper recently reported that Birmingham MP Steve McCabe has been delegated to run the Labour campaign in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

I presume therefore that it was his idea to stage the ridiculous stunt where two Labour supporters dressed up in top hat and tails to mock the Conservative candidate, Edward Timpson, and the Conservative party leader, David Cameron, for their apparently privileged backgrounds.

Even if it wasn't Mr McCabe's idea, as the campaign manager, he must surely have sanctioned this charade.

Perhaps he could therefore use the columns of his own local newspaper to answer two questions. 1. As most right-minded people now agree that it is not acceptable to mock people because of their race, age, gender, sexuality, size and so on, why does Mr McCabe think it is still acceptable to mock people because they were born the children of wealthy parents? 2. As we have recently had a Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who went to the top Scottish public school, Fettes, why should the man who hopes to be the next Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, be sneered at because he attended the top English public school, Eton?

Since Mr Blair's privileged schooling and background clearly didn't turn voters off him, and nor did an Eton education turn Londoners off Boris Johnson just a couple of weeks ago, why on earth does Mr McCabe think it will turn voters off Cameron?

The campaign Mr McCabe is running in Crewe and Nantwich surely smacks of desperation.


Conservative Parliamentary

Candidate for Edgbaston