The debate about the best location for a memorial to Birmingham's Industrial Revolution pioneers took a new twist last night when the city's leisure chief decided to revoke his own decision to position a statue in Centenary Square.
Almost three years after the statue of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch (pictured) was removed for cleaning, Councillor John Alden said he was considering replacing it on its original site - outside the former
Register Office in Broad Street. Coun Alden's surprise move came two weeks after he signed off a cabinet decision to place the statue between the Hall of Memory and the Copthorne Hotel in Centenary Square.
The change of heart came after the council signed a five-year lease to house its strategic sports team in the former Register Office. The 80-strong unit includes the Olympic task force, which will market Birmingham as a location for a training camp for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Coun Alden (Con Harborne) originally understood the Register Office was to be demolished as part of the Arena Central redevelopment project. However, the signing of a lease meant the statue of Boulton, Murdoch and Watt could be placed back on its original plinth as a "stop gap" measure for five years.
During that time the council would examine options for a permanent home, possibly at Eastside, Coun Alden added.
He promised to consider a scrutiny committee demand to set up a work-ing party to examine possible sites. Since being removed for cleaning and re-gilding in August 2003, at a cost of #55,000, the statue has been in storage and out of the public gaze.
Coun Alden dropped plans to position it in Centenary Square, on the site of the former Forward statue, after finding the cost of strengthening a railway tunnel to take the weight would be #180,000. He then considered and dismissed options for sites at Millennium Point and at the entrance to the Matthew Boulton College in Eastside.
He told a scrutiny committee yesterday that the statue could be replaced on its original plinth, which would have to be cleaned, at a significantly lower cost than the #83,000 estimate for the Hall of Memory site.
"There will be people from all over the world coming to see about the possibility of an Olympic training camp and I feel that the original site may be the best place for this important reminder of Birmingham's history," Coun Alden added.
Labour accused him of making a serious mistake.