Dear Editor, I am responding to Paul Dale's article about the impact of World Heritage Site status on the Jewellery Quarter and in particular Barbara Shackley's comments on behalf of the Victorian Society.
I agree with her wholeheartedly that the standard of new build in the Quarter (pre Design Guide) has in most cases left a lot to be desired, although refurbishments of old buildings have been generally impressive thanks to the work of the City Council Conservation Department.
However, even with the Design Guide now in force, we share the concern that poor or mediocre design may be slipping through the planning system through gradual changes being made by applicants. In order to assess the true position and also encourage exemplar design, we are working with MADE to organise a seminar around September time to discuss how we "up the ante" by looking at case studies in the Quarter, both good and bad.
In terms of tackling dereliction, I think the record is generally impressive with the numbers of derelict buildings reducing by over 50 per cent to below 50 sites over the last few years. With the notable exception of the A.E.Harris site, this has been accomplished by adhering to the principles of the Conservation Management Plan and not allowing residential in the industrial heart of the area in order to protect small businesses from displacement. We also envisage working with the Regional Development Agency to assist us in reducing the dereliction still further.
However I really do take issue with Barbara Shackley's rather dismissive comments about "beautification" and "hanging baskets." If the jewellery trade is to survive, we need more visitors buying jewellery and surveys show that visitors to the area would like more greenery.
Our Award Winning 'In Bloom' initiative is part of our plan to make the place more welcoming and we have had much favourable comment about the initiative. This is far more important to me (and the jewellery industry) than Barbara's purist comments Anyway what was in the Jewellery Quarter before it came became one? Trees of course.
Purists have to be careful that they don't sterilise the progress we need to make in order to attract more visitors. We do not want a Quarter pickled in aspic with no working jewellery businesses.
Operations Director Jewellery Quarter Regeneration Partnership.
An ugliness not acceptable in city centre
Dear Editor, Freddie Gick of Birmingham Civic Society makes all the correct and right points in condemning the monstrosity that is the Birmingham Central Library.
Not only is it now inadequate for the needs of the city but also its sheer ugliness at the centrepoint of the city is no longer acceptable.
All the stakeholders in Paradise Circus including the city council are raring to go to create a unique and stunning focal point and are being held up by the meddling of English Heritage.
How they can believe, in terms of position and achitectural merit, that the Central Library deserves to be preserved defies belief and calls into question their credibility as a serious organisation.
Clive Dutton is right to call it a blot on our cityscape - we would also regard the Dome site in Smallbrook Queensway and the Great Charles Street car park as blots. The city deserves better.
Chairman Birmingham Business Focus Maybury & Co.
Pheasant cruelty is not pleasant
Dear Editor, Healthy eating is a hot topic at the moment. In the wake of their expose of the cruelty of factory-farmed chicken, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have trumpeted pheasant meat as an ethical and natural alternative.
However, they could not be more wrong. Annually, some 42 million pheasants and partridges are purpose-bred to serve as feathered targets for wealthy 'guns'. Production typically involves the use of metal battery cages, as well as industrial hatcheries, sheds and pens. Drugs are administered to the birds in an attempt to control diseases that are the inevitable consequence of intensive farming.
After release, beaters scare the birds into the sky - and some 40 per cent of birds seen to be shot are wounded but not retrieved. Instead, they die from their wounds or predation or under the wheels of vehicles.
Animal Aid has produced a new factsheet dispelling the myths surrounding the production of pheasants, called 'Cheating the Public'. It can be downloaded from www.animalaid.org.uk or ordered by calling 01732 364546.
Campaigner, Animal Aid.
An outstanding effort by Red Cross during flood crisis
Dear Editor, One year ago a series of unprecedented and devastating floods swept across the country, destroying homes and livelihoods, and bringing misery to hundreds of thousands of people.
The British Red Cross immediately sprang into action and over nine hundred of our staff and volunteers took part in the response. They assisted local authorities who ran rest centres, supported the emergency services, and provided emergency goods and bedding to those evacuated from their homes.
Once again we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the British public and the British Red Cross National Floods Appeal raised nearly £5 million - money which is now helping thousands of people to take significant steps along the road to recovery.
The massive response required to the UK floods made it the British Red Cross's largest domestic emergency relief operation since the Second World War.
I am delighted that Sir Michael Pitt's review into the UK summer floods of 2007 recognises the outstanding contribution made by the Red Cross and highlights the crucial role of the voluntary sector in responding to flooding. To everyone who donated, and to the hundreds of British Red Cross volunteers and staff who worked tirelessly to help those affected - thank you.
Sir Nicholas Young
Chief Executive, The British Red Cross.