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Old July 27th, 2005, 06:08 PM   #1
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Official Black Country Thread

Join the queue for a home in the sky
Once high-rise flats were shunned by council tenants. These days you'll be lucky to get hold of the keys to a tower block des res, says Mark Andrews
Jul 27, 2005, 07:45


Brian and Gladys Waller love their high-rise flat. With views over the Clent Hills, security levels that most house dwellers can only dream of, and a real sense of community, it suits them down to the ground.

Yet for years so-called experts have insisted that such contentment is impossible. They dismiss high-rise council flats as towers of misery, hated by those unfortunate individuals unable to find anywhere more suitable to live.


The former St Mary's Court, reborn as The Pinnacle

But as the concrete "streets in the sky" disappear slowly but surely from the Black Country landscape, is it now time to consider whether they are really the planning disasters they are painted?

The Wallers live in Baylie Court, a 13-storey tower block off the Stourbridge ring road, which has not been without its troubles in the past.

But after being transformed by a major refurbishment scheme, it is now designated a "mature block" occupied mainly by the over 60s.

"If you did a survey of the people living here, I think most would rather stay than live in a house," says 66-year-old Mr Waller.

"People like living in them; we have got a way of life. It's secure, it's safe, and there are a lot of people of our own age."

Mr Waller, who represents tenants on the Dudley High Rise Living Forum, says the borough council is now selling the benefits of high rise living to elderly people who live alone in two or three bedroomed council houses.

Tower blocks sprung up like mushrooms across the West Midlands in the 1950s and 60s, built by local authorities eager to meet the post-war surge in demand for housing. And people clamoured to live in the new state-of-the-art properties, which seemed like the future of British architecture.

Yet by the 1980s, these monuments to modern architecture were considered good for only one thing - demolition. Unpopular with tenants, plagued by crime, and thought by most to be an eyesore, high-rise flats vanished almost as quickly as they appeared. Across the Black Country, their demolition was invariably met with parties and cheering crowds. At least until recently.

When Sandwell Council decided last year to demolish Bearwood Tower in Smethwick, the decision was not met with celebration but with protests from residents angry about losing their homes.

There are now waiting lists of people wanting to move into many of the tower blocks that remain, many of which have been designated mature blocks. Building conservationists are also beginning to wake up to the idea that at least some of them may be worth preserving for future generations.

It is not just the older generation who are drawn to high rise living. In recent years, there has been a trend among young professionals in London to buy ex-council properties sold under the right-to-buy scheme.

Architecture expert Iain Borden says there is a certain section of fashionable London society attracted to the ex-council flats.

Mr Borden, an architecture lecturer at University College London says: "They tend to be young, tend to be childless, urban professionals - maybe graphic designers."

He says people choose to live in council blocks because they enjoy the dynamism of living in the city centre, and also the views from living in the sky.

They also benefit from good, spacious design, says Mr Borden, adding that people were now beginning to appreciate the work of some of the world-class architects who had designed the towers.

A prime example of this is Trellick Tower in Notting Hill, which was made a Grade II* listed building in 1998.


Dramatic views are a plus

Designed by celebrated Hungarian architect Erno Goldfinger, it came to symbolise all that was wrong with tower blocks during the 1970s, suffering from arson attacks, burglaries, vandalism and violence.

But after improvements to security and changes to the lettings policy, the 20-storey tower is today seen as the epitome of cool, with people queuing up to buy the trendy apartments.

Closer to home, a similar story can be told in Willenhall. Like many other towers, St Mary's Court in Gomer Street fell into a state of disrepair, and was even earmarked for demolition as Walsall Council found it increasingly hard to let the flats.

But the building was instead refurbished by D&B property developments, and under its new name, The Pinnacle, has proved a big hit with buyers.

Estate Agent David Warke, a director of property firm Goodchilds, said: "They are mainly young professionals and couples who want something new and modern, there's nothing like this elsewhere in Willenhall."

The debate about the merits or otherwise of high rise tower blocks will probably rumble on long after most of them have disappeared, but if nothing else, they are at least distinctive.

And as they are progressively flattened to make way for lookalike mock-Victorian and mock-Georgian properties, it is possible that one day people may admire rather than deride the architects who sought to look to the future rather than cling to the past.

After all, how many buildings, condemned as monstrosities during the 1950s and 60s, are now mourned after being demolished to make way for concrete tower blocks?
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Old July 27th, 2005, 10:48 PM   #2
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I take it the West Brom, Wolvo and Walsall threads all got wiped out
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Old July 28th, 2005, 12:04 PM   #3
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Yeah,I had to start a new thread.
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:42 AM   #4
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May as well kick start this thread.....allrroight maiyte, yam cummin intow brrrum t' chekk owt sum tall bildins....koowool, see yow layta then...mukka
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:43 AM   #5
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apparently, Woodhousen spaykes loike that
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:44 AM   #6
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:50 AM   #7
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Q: What's a kipper tie?
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:54 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin G
Q: What's a kipper tie?
dunno Martin, what's a kipper tie
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 01:56 AM   #9
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A: It's sumthing yow drink maiyte.

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Old August 2nd, 2005, 02:04 AM   #10
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we say 'tay' in Walsall that's why i was a bit lost in translation....we need some Dudley forumers on here
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 02:21 AM   #11
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Dudloy??

Now we're talking!

Where's Lenny Henry when you need him most?
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 02:29 AM   #12
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Defrocking the Vicar of Dibley probably
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 11:43 AM   #13
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Get back on topic yow lot!

First published on Friday 29 July 2005:
Plan to beat gridlock
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A far-reaching transport plan, which includes a new Metro line through Dudley and a major trunk road in Brierley Hill, has been handed in to the government.

Traffic bosses for the West Midlands submitted the detailed document yesterday as a new survey revealed residents reckon transport is a more serious issue than health or education.

Drivers questioned believe congestion has got worse in recent years and tackling the problem should be a top priority.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, the West Midlands Transport Champion, said: "Their views confirm the challenge we face.

"More and more cars are using our roads and the region is predicted to have to cope with more than 165 million extra journeys by 2011.

"If we don't address this, gridlock looms."

The Local Transport Plan includes proposals to expand the Midland Metro tram system from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, via Dudley.

It also features the Keeping Brierley Hill Moving project to ease congestion around the town.

The construction of new routes, parallel to the High Street and from the A4036 Pedmore Road, will reduce traffic in the town and Level Street
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 11:09 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
Get back on topic yow lot!

First published on Friday 29 July 2005:
Plan to beat gridlock
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::.
A far-reaching transport plan, which includes a new Metro line through Dudley and a major trunk road in Brierley Hill, has been handed in to the government.

Traffic bosses for the West Midlands submitted the detailed document yesterday as a new survey revealed residents reckon transport is a more serious issue than health or education.

Drivers questioned believe congestion has got worse in recent years and tackling the problem should be a top priority.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, the West Midlands Transport Champion, said: "Their views confirm the challenge we face.

"More and more cars are using our roads and the region is predicted to have to cope with more than 165 million extra journeys by 2011.

"If we don't address this, gridlock looms."

The Local Transport Plan includes proposals to expand the Midland Metro tram system from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, via Dudley.

It also features the Keeping Brierley Hill Moving project to ease congestion around the town.

The construction of new routes, parallel to the High Street and from the A4036 Pedmore Road, will reduce traffic in the town and Level Street

I hope they stop being so tightfisted with their trunk road scheme like they've been with EVERY SINGLE OTHER PREVIOUS BLACK COUNTRY Dual carriageway proposal - if you care to cast your mind back a bit, you may recall that the following dual carriageway routes:

1) The Black Country Route (A463 Willenhall/Bilston/Coseley)
2) The Black Country Spine Road (A41 West Bromwich/Great Bridge/Wednesbury/Bilston/The Lunt)
3) The Dudley Southern By-pass (A461 Burnt Tree - Netherton)

were ALL meant to be built with grade-separated junctions throughout their length.

And as we all know, due to some pathetic penny pinching courtesy of the councils/highway authorities involved in all of these schemes, they were eventually built and opened with surface level roundabouts thus hardly alleviating any of the traffic congestion that they were designed to help avoid. What's worse, they are already way over capacity! The Black Country Route is a glaring example of what the intervening years can do to downgrade a scheme which was initially proposed as a fast all purpose near-motorway standard dual carriageway by-pass scheme with split-level junctions to avoid tailbacking for through traffic.....only three junctions that comprised the original [70s planned] stretch of this by-pass (before it became known as the Black Country Route in the mid-80s) were ever built as grade separated (M6 Junction 10 to the Keyway at Willenhall) - whilst the rest were bog-standard surface level roundabouts - even the intersection at The Lunt where the later-built Black Country Spine Road fed into it [though tellingly this has a wide central reservation at the junction which was designed to allow for future flyover provision - yeah - dream on baby...!]. What's even more galling was that the route around Bilston was revised and ran directly through the town centre along Market Street - instead of passing some distance to the south of it using the original [long protected] alignment.

So I don't know much about this new Brierley Hill Trunk Route, but my suspicions are it will in all likelihood be planned and built as yet another bog standard cheapo dual carriageway which will have loads of crappy surface-level roundabout intersections, traffic lights, bus lanes, pram lanes, cycle lanes, speed bumps and then meet its maximum capacity within weeks of opening cos it was under-engineered like the other aforementioned primary routes that went before it.

It's not enough!

The Black Country - despite its densely packed sprawl of towns large and small - has long had a simply dreadful road network and infrastructure - it doesn't have a single motorway or fast urban highway (with split level junctions) traversing its boundaries anywhere - the M5 doesn't count as it's a long-distance artery and NOT a local distributor. Considering how much derelict land the entire conurbation has as a result of its industrial past it's incredible that highways proposals over the decades have never seeked to build on these vast ribbons of otherwise unused land to at least improve transport links throughout the area and thus in so doing attract new development and businesses along their alignments. Motorway access from all parts of the Black Country to the M6 and M5 are monumentally poor - that is no exaggeration. To this day, the Merry Hill Centre remains shamefully alone amongst the UK's vast out-of-city shopping malls in that it's nowhere near a motorway or motorway-standard road of any sizeable capacity. One wonders if this oversight will ever be properly addressed.
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Old September 8th, 2005, 06:25 PM   #15
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Leather landmark set for makeover Sep 8 2005
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By Gurdip Thandi, Evening Mail


COUNCIL chiefs aim to turn Walsall's historic leather quarter into a conservation area of national importance to attract more investment.

Walsall Council's conservation officers believe the leather heritage area would not only protect historic buildings from demolition but also help them put together grant applications for government and European funding to restore these sites.

The proposed area consists of sites in Station Street, Little Station Street, Marsh Street, Charles Street and Navigation Street, which features the landmark Ravenscraig works building.

Ravenscraig was built in the late 19th century and is a five storey currying works, featuring a water tower.

This will be seen as a landmark site for the conservation area.

Other buildings in the area, including Avon Works and Crown Works in Marsh Street, were also built around the 1800s.

Between 1870 and 1900, half of the buildings in Walsall were related to the leather trade or associated industries. But in recent times the leather industry has declined and most of the buildings that were used for the trade are now put to other uses or lying empty.

Coun Adrian Andrew, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "For nearly 200 years Walsall has been the centre of the British leather industry and this is a great source of pride to people in the borough.

"We are committed to protecting and enhancing our heritage and we believe there is great support for a conservation area to help protect and develop this part of our shared history."

Public consultation on the proposals have started and an exhibition at the Crossing at St Paul's, in Darwall Street, will run next Thursday.
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Old September 15th, 2005, 05:52 PM   #16
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Scheme breathes new life into hotel Sep 15 2005
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It's not much to look at now but the Georgian Molineux Hotel is described as a pivotal part of the regeneration process that, it is claimed, will help to make Wolverhampton one of the Midlands' most desirable cities.

The listed three-storey property overlooking Wolverhampton ring road is being given a second lease of life with a major renovation led by Wolverhampton City Council in conjunction with English Heritage and Advantage West Midlands.

The next step, according to commercial property agent Ian Mercer, partner at Bruton Knowles in Birmingham, is to find an occupier and then to clinch planning permission.

Swish offices? Perhaps, although would-be occupiers are said to be coming forward with a wide variety of possible uses for the 11,072 sq ft of space.

Mr Mercer says: "This building has excellent potential and we are receiving a good level of interest from bidders due to its heritage, prominence and location."

Coun Peter Bilson, Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for economic development and strategic housing, highlights the time and attention that is being lavished on the former hotel's interior.

"The Molineux Hotel presents a unique opportunity for new occupiers. It's a landmark building that has stood in the centre of Wolverhampton for over 250 years," he says.

"The current phase of the project is seeing the wood panelling, roof, clock tower and fine ornate plaster all being brought back to their former glory.

"We are considering proposals for a wide variety of uses and welcome further proposals."

His enthusiasm is shared by David Blake, director for the Black Country at AWM, who says: "This is a fabulous restoration project on a building which is incredibly important to the history and heritage of the city.

"The Molineux Hotel will be a valuable addition to the city's ongoing regeneration success story and is destined to become a landmark which local people will point out with pride in years to come."

The council has assembled a substantial package of funding to restore the building, which is being marketed with a longterm lease of up to 125 years.

Last used in 1972, the hotel deteriorated rapidly after it was vacated and was ravaged by fire in 2003, destroying the roof and most of the floors. Wolverhampton City Council purchased the property the following year and embarked on a meticulous restoration programme to bring the hotel back to life.

The first stage - concentrating mainly on the exterior - is due to be completed by the end of this year.
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Old September 15th, 2005, 05:57 PM   #17
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There was something in the B'ham Post a few days ago about the redevelopment of Wolverhampton Lower Station - looks really good - playing on the blue bricks of I.K.Brunel's design...
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Old November 1st, 2005, 02:03 PM   #18
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Mill revamp set to begin
By Kelly Parkes
Oct 31, 2005
Work will start on the £40 million first phase of the Shannon's Mill scheme in Walsall town centre within weeks, developers announced today.

They also unveiled plans for a 1,000 space car park and apartments on the site. An artist's impression of how the finished project will look was also revealed.

Proposals for the Shannon's Mill development were first made public in 2000, but in February this year the project was thrown into doubt when it emerged developers Goold Holdings and St Modwen Developments had scrapped original plans.

The blueprint included a £50m factory shopping outlet with 60 designer names, which would have created 1,000 jobs and provided warehousing for market traders.

The scheme has since been reconfigured and the details have now been finalised.

Asda has agreed to take a 118,000 sq ft store trading at two levels, each linked to a dedicated parking floor in a four-storey 1,000 space car park.

The car park will also serve the remaining parts of phase one comprising eight shops fronting on to George Street, and 41 apartments.

Shannon's Mill will constitute phase two of the regeneration which is likely to be launched to the public early next year.

The 105,000 sq ft of space is expected to be used for retail on the George Street frontage and a mix of office and residential uses on the upper parts.

Phase three, expected to follow two or three years later, will comprise the Lower Hall Street and Digbeth area which paves the way for more retailers.

Derek West of St Modwen Developments said: "The start on the first phase will give this end of town a major boost. George Street will become a new destination with Asda, specialist shops, restaurants and new apartments.

"The 1,000 space multi-storey car park will make access and parking very good."
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Old November 3rd, 2005, 01:56 PM   #19
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Preserving town's past Nov 3 2005
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AMBITIOUS plans have been drawn up to save landmark buildings from being demolished and preserve Walsall's rich industrial past.

A special Leather Heritage Conservation Area is set to be mapped out in Walsall around the traditional heartland of the trade that made the town world famous.

The area will protect dozens of 19th century buildings in Marsh Street, Station Street and Navigation Street.

If the scheme was granted, permission would be needed before any building in the zone could be demolished.

Coun Adrian Andrew, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "This part of Walsall was once a thriving hub of the Leather industry that made the town a well-known and respected name across the world.



"This area is of international importance because of its historic links but we are in danger of losing some of our familiar landmarks unless some action is taken," he explained. "Many of the firms that made Walsall famous have moved or have closed and by taking this action we will safeguard our valuable heritage."


Among the properties the council is looking to protect includes The Crown Works, in Marsh Street, the Ravenscraig Works, in Navigation Street, and the former A.S. Smith & Sons, now the Homer Pressings site, works in nearby Charles Street.


The Station Street properties are the oldest in the proposed area and were built after the opening of the railway through the town in the mid-19th century. Council bosses are keen to see properties in the proposed area used for housing, leisure and office use.


A public consultation, held earlier this year, supported the proposal with backing also received from English Heritage, Walsall Civic Society and West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust.


The golden age of leather in Walsall was around 1870 to 1900 when more than half the buildings in the proposed conservation area were linked to the trade
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Old November 29th, 2005, 02:24 PM   #20
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New Cross £400m tower plan
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Exclusive by Health Correspondent Andy Rea
Nov 29, 2005
A space-age tower block costing £400 million is set to replace Wolverhampton's sprawling New Cross Hospital - and could be built miles from the Wednesfield site.

The 10-storey building would stack key departments on top of each other rather than the current situation of adjacent buildings, if it is given the go-ahead.

Now bosses are desperately searching to find a new home for the hospital on a brown field site in the city.

It is the second outline business case (OBC) to be put forward in a year by the hospital. The first - a £317m scheme - was shelved by health chiefs.

New Cross's chief executive David Loughton said he wanted to find a brown field site which would be a cheaper and more convenient option, but it had so far proved impossible.

The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust board will have to decide by January where it is going to build the new hospital, which will take three-and-a-half years to complete.

Plans have been drawn up for submission to regional health chiefs by March next year and, if approved, the future hospital will be built by the private sector as a private finance initiative (PFI).

Mr Loughton said it would cost £24m to provide temporary accommodation for departments if they built the new hospital on the existing site, but nothing if they found somewhere else.

"I have been looking for a brown field site since the day I arrived here and it would be the preferred option because it would be the least disruptive and the least expensive," he added.

"The chances are not good of finding a big enough site but we have got to explore this option to death."

He said the existing hospital was made up of buildings which were built at different times since the Victorian age and a new hospital was essential to providing 21st century healthcare in the city.

He added: "Being realistic it is not going to be easy to find a brown field site now because opportunities were missed in the past."
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