Planning Application – Eastside Park

Birmingham's brand new city centre park is a step closer to reality as an outline planning application has now been submitted.

The planned park is an unusual long, narrow shape snaking its way through the Eastside area. Beginning by Moor Street Station off Park Street, the park will wrap around the front of the new BCU campus building up to Thinktank's Science Garden in front of Millennium Point. The park then runs alongside most of the length of Curzon Street.

Commuters and travellers arriving in to Birmingham New Street from Birmingham Airport and London will get a full view of the park. For too long this major route in to the city has given visitors a negative impression of the city. It also gives the increasing number of city centre residents a space to enjoy, along with families wanting a break from shopping trips in the city.

You have the chance to comment on the proposals up to 18th February using the Council's Planning Online tool.


Brum’s Best Budget Eateries

Media coverage of Birmingham this week focuses on food in anticipation of this weekend's Taste of Birmingham festival over at Cannon Hill Park, which starts tomorrow. Today’s Guardian features a list of Brum’s Top 10 Budget Eateries, with some of my personal favourites making the cut. My local The Lord Clifden, the Bullring’s Urban Pie and the Friends of the Earth Warehouse Café in Digbeth all feature.

Also on the list is Ladywood's very own Great British Eatery, which I blogged about last weekend.


The End Of The Rainbow? Part Two

Following on from my previous post regarding the Noise Abatement Order given to the Rainbow in Digbeth.

Last night I attended the official "Rainbow Response" to the Noise Abatement Order. I'd estimate about 300 people were crammed into the pub to hear the statement and with over 20,000 people now supporting the Facebook group, that just goes to show the extent of public feeling about this.

Kent's response was excellent, summarising the current position and giving his thoughts. He confirmed the Rainbow will be appealing the Noise Abatement Order. You can view Pete Ashton's video of Kent's statement here. WARNING: contains swearing!

Rainbow Meeting - Kent Davis from Pete Ashton on Vimeo.

I've also exchanged a few emails with Martin Mullaney about the subject. He's been very open about the latest position on The Stirrer Forum, here's an excerpt:

At the meeting prior to this public meeting, both Clive Dutton, Head of Planning and Regeneration and myself, made it clear to Kent Davies that we want the Rainbow to survive, that we see it as an important part of the culture of Birmingham and that we want to see Digbeth grow as a cultural and creative area.

However, the council has to work within the law. If someone complains about noise, the Council has to investigate. The officers will then have to make a determination as to whether that noise is a statutory nuisance. This will take into account if the noise is a repeat occurrence, what time of day it occurs, what level it is at.

It was also explained that the officers will not be sitting round the corner on 1st August waiting for a minor infringement of noise nuisance. Instead will only respond to complaints....and will again have to make an assessment as to whether it is a statutory nuisance.

The Rainbow - Raise the Roof Festival

So what's next? On 1st August the Rainbow holds its "Raise The Roof" fundraiser, to pay for a new roof on the courtyard. The danger is noise complaints on this day would be a breach of the Noise Abatement Order and could have serious consequences for the venue.

Again, Martin has commented on this:

It was also explained to Kent that there is a level of responsiblity on his part to try to reduce any nuisance from his 1st August event – this would include walking to the Abacus building and listening to the noise level there, using friendly customers in the Abacus building to warn him when the noise levels are getting unacceptable; look at the arrangement of his loudspeakers so the event is not replying on just loudspeakers to fill all of Adderley Street....and finally maybe consider turning down the volume a bit.

Stay tuned for further updates.


Sounds Great, But What Is A Digital District?

At today's regional launch of the Digital Britain report, Lib Dem group leader (and Deputy Leader of the City Council!) Cllr Paul Tilsley revealed Birmingham will create a "Digital District" spanning the Digbeth / Eastside part of the city centre.

He said, "Birmingham will create a ‘Digital District’ that brings together the innovative, learning and creative sectors enabled through a next generation hi-speed broadband infrastructure. Spanning several hundred acres from the creative industries in Digbeth, our science and technology sectors at Birmingham Science Park and our world class developments at Eastside, it will provide an exciting environment for our creative industries and young entrepreneurs."

Now I would say Digbeth, specifically the growing Custard Factory complex, together with Aston University and the Millennium Point campus of BCU already meet that description. So what else will be on offer above and beyond high-speed broadband?

While I'm not quite as sceptical as B:INS, I do hope this isn't just a rebrand of what is already there, and there will be some form of investment programme unveiled to provide the meat on the bones.

Let's wait and see...
Update: You can hear the Cllr Paul Tilsley speech here courtesy of Rhubarb Radio.


The end of the Rainbow?

A matter of hours after blogging about the Live Music bill being proposed by a Lib Dem Lord, news reaches me that The Rainbow in Digbeth has been given a noise abatement order by Birmingham City Council.

This is a real blow to what is a real hotbed of cultural activity - the Rainbow is far more than just a pub. The events are known nationally and the place attracts an incredible mix of international artists and local unknowns.

If this really is off the back of one complaint from a resident of Abacus (which by the way is a fair distance from the Rainbow and the other side of a dual carriageway!) then someone at the Council is making an enormous mistake.

As I write this, the Facebook group set up to support the venue stands a shade short of 19,000 members.

As I wrote yesterday, the issue of city centre residential developments and bars/music venues isn't going to go away, but we have to be sensible about this. The recent closure of TRMNL in the Jewellery Quarter was unfortunate as I felt from a cultural viewpoint the venue was doing great things - but the building was unsuitable, they did not have the correct planning permission and there was a genuine disturbance caused to large numbers of residents. The Council has to take a learning point there from granting a license for unsuitable premises.

There's also a learning point here. In the case of TRMNL there was a groundswell of opposition. In the case of Rainbow, you will struggle to find a single person who thinks closing the venue is the right thing to do.

There is a gathering at the Rainbow at 6.30pm this Friday where the venue will be announcing their next steps.

This morning I will be writing to all the Liberal Democrat councillors I know well to see what can be done to reverse this ludicrous situation.


Lib Dem Lord to Propose Live Music Bill

An encouraging sign for followers of the Keep Digbeth Vibrant / Noisy / Spotted Dog / Rainbow campaigns. Today a Lib Dem Lord is proposing a live music bill to clear up the bureaucratic minefield that is licensing law. In a letter printed in the Guardian, Lord Clement-Jones wrote:

Back in 2003, ministers called the new Licensing Act "a licensing regime for the 21st century", yet where live music is concerned, they actually turned the licensing clock back more than 100 years. A case in 1899 (Brearley v Morley) established that a pub landlord could let customers use a piano on his premises without an entertainment licence. Today, such a landlord could face criminal prosecution where the maximum penalty is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison.

It is as a result of absurdities like this that today, in the House of Lords, I am announcing my intention to bring forward a live music bill which will clear up the bureaucratic minefield of the Licensing Act and breathe new life into the live music scene.

Tim Clement-Jones
Lib Dem, House of Lords

In the meantime closer to home, I am talking to as many Liberal Democrat colleagues of mine as possible about the situation in Digbeth with the hope that we do not lose the Rainbow.

The issue of planning and licensing for venues in the city centre is a very delicate one, as emphasised by a number of cases in the Jewellery Quarter recently, namely TRMNL and Bluu & Mechu on Summer Row. But I firmly believe there is a balance that can and must be found. Residents, Councillors, Council Officers, Venue Owners and Gig-Goers must all work together to find that balance. Let’s get on with it.