Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
200. Finally, so there is no uncertainly in
this, it has been a rigorous application of the planning system
by your authorities that has brought this about; it has not been
the willing, enthusiastic co-operation of the developers in the
first place. Is that a fair comment, or is it unfair?
(Cllr Stacey) That is certainly fair with those words
"in the first place". The developers now understand
the benefits to them of being next to a public space, if you like,
and that the public round there, and liveliness, and people coming
and going actually adds value to their development, in terms of
making the place lively and lived in and safe, and so on. So certainly
they had to be dragged into it. I think they have learned some
201. What about commercial use of the waterways,
does that put developers off, having these dirty barges chugging
along, with Fuller's earth in them, or potters' clay, up to Stoke,
and different things; does that put them off?
(Cllr Stacey) It is not a problem we have had; as
I said earlier, there is very little commercial use. I think some
of them would like to see it encouraged in terms of providing
that level of activity during the winter, because the pleasure
craft reduce, perhaps people using the towpath reduce, so that
level of activity that is there in the spring, summer, autumn
months drops off in the winter, and perhaps some commercial activity
would be welcome.
(Cllr Crawford) It has not been an issue, Chairman.
202. I am slightly reluctant to dip my toe in
your Birmingham and Newark waters because I have not been there
very often, or even at all, but I am interested in comparing your
experience with that of the London Thames and also with Docklands.
And, from several of the remarks which you have made, such as
scrap-yards along the waterway, as if that is a rather derogatory
comment about industrial activity perhaps, and also, too, a report
that we received from the British Marine Industries Federation,
who do draw to the attention of this Committee the danger of sterilising
these waterways and making them into river views, rather than
commercial areas, literally we squeeze out the wharves and all
the other activities which those waterways make come alive. You
will be aware of the Docklands experience, where a large number
of derelict waterways were languishing because nobody could get
to grips, and the establishment of the separate Dockland Corporation
which brought all those things to life, in a very imaginative
way, I think, including mixed housing, and I wonder whether you
have drawn any inferences from the way in which that succeeded?
The problem there was that local councils had a different agenda
from the commercial sector, who may otherwise have gone in and
done a lot of the redevelopment; and I would like to have your
comments. I notice that you gentlemen are all representing councils,
and I would be interested to know whether you have any input here
from the commercial or property development sector that we might
hear further from?
(Cllr Stacey) I think one of the things that we enabled
the commercial sector to have opportunities for was by our use
of land assembly through compulsory purchase powers; we actually
did that as a local authority. It was later done in part by the
authority, Heartlands in Birmingham, where we had an Urban Development
Corporation, but we certainly did it as a city first, of land
assembly, which helped the private sector then to develop. And
that is something I know that Lord Rogers, in his report, suggested
that local authorities were not doing enough of. Again, that might
come back to the issue of Birmingham being big enough to be able
to do things like that. But that is where we were able to help
as a local authority, we did not have to be a separate body to
203. Newark is a different size?
(Cllr Crawford) It is; very different, Chairman, I
think by the involvement of the business community on the SRB
board, indirectly, with being able to protect some of the industry
that was on the riverside. I know for a fact that one of the companies
that is on the riverside, that is owned by a company based in
Liechtenstein, were looking at closing it, but looked at the development
that we were doing and the support of industry on the riverside
and they decided to stay. In addition to that, we have got listed
buildings along the riverside that were once breweries, and the
business community are working with us to find a viable reuse
for those. If I could just, very briefly, touch on the scrap-yard;
the reason why I mentioned the scrap-yard was that it is
204. Not very pretty, presumably?
(Cllr Crawford) It is right in the middle of the regeneration
area, very near the castle; and, you are quite right, not very
pretty, and quite contaminated.
205. I just want to ask about historic buildings;
are you, in fact, really making the best use of them?
(Cllr Crawford) Yes. We have some 2,000 listed buildings
inside our District, so we have got very good, long experience
of listed buildings.
206. And Birmingham?
(Cllr Stacey) Yes, we have actually declared a canal-based
conservation area on the east side of the city now, very much
with a view to using those buildings that are there to best advantage.
207. British Waterways: have you been dragging
them along in this regeneration, or have they been dragging you
(Cllr Stacey) I feel eyes burning in the back of my
head. We have had a very long partnership with British Waterways,
in Birmingham. I have no doubt that that was helped by the fact
that we had access to funds, as I explained, through the ICP programme,
and so on, that assisted them. They have learned, as we all have,
through this process, and I think it is a very good and strong
continuing partnership which we are taking forward through new
208. So they have not made life difficult for
(Cllr Stacey) They have not made life difficult, except
occasionally they were a little disjointed, and I think there
were issues over how much they wanted for someone to put a bridge
across their canal, and things like that.
209. You mean they were greedy, not disjointed?
(Cllr Stacey) I think some of them were exercising
their commercial remit pretty strongly, and I think there are
issues there that we have both learned from, where perhaps you
learn that you make a bigger long-term gain by
210. Alright; that is fairly tactful, yes.
(Cllr Stacey) Yes.
(Cllr Crawford) From Newark's perspective, I think
they came into the partnership very sceptically, as some of the
business communities have done, but over the three or four years
they have actually developed into a very strong, willing partner.
211. Councillor Stacey, you were talking about,
yes, encouraging some freight; does the Council look at using
them at all perhaps for removal of refuse, or anything like that?
It is alright saying other people should be using them for freight,
what about yourselves?
(Cllr Stacey) Absolutely. One of the problems we have
in Birmingham with freight use is both the narrowness of the canals
and the number of locks, particularly through the centre, which
do cause some problems for potential freight use. I have to admit
that our waste strategy did not foresee the opportunity of the
use of the canals for waste freight. I understand that there are
discussions going on currently that may change that, with a commercial
organisation, but we have not yet been able to identify a way
we could do it.
(Cllr Crawford) Currently, there are no waste materials
moved by water within the District; obviously, we are the collection
agency, not the disposal agency, if you like, but we are talking
with the County Council, developing their waste management strategy,
and that is in our thinking, yes.
212. Now; vandalism. Some of the canal boats
will be perceived to be fairly affluent in ownership, if you like,
some of the canals, in Birmingham particularly, pass through some
of the more deprived bits; is there a conflict, or an enthusiasm,
for some of the tearaways to throw things at the canal barges,
and burgle them, and things like that?
(Cllr Stacey) Yes; there have been problems, I know,
from experience from my own ward. The canal comes out of a very
long tunnel, in a deep cutting, and it is a sitting target. There
is the apocryphal story of the police who got a couple of mountain
bikes to be able to pursue youths along the towpaths, and they
no longer have the mountain bikes.
213. There has always been a lot of initiative
(Cllr Stacey) Absolutely. But we are working on that.
That particular one, we hope to work on through, the area has
got a New Deal for Communities designation, we are hoping to work
on that, and actually involve the local community, including local
youth, in seeing the canal as a legitimate opportunity, rather
214. A legitimate opportunity for what?
(Cllr Stacey) For recreation, particularly recreation,
but also, hopefully, we can create some commercial opportunities
in an area that is very short of them. In other parts of the city
there has been a very positive response from communities alongside
the canals, who perhaps for the first time have been given access
to them, and see them very much as part of their local community,
their local walking routes, and so on; so there has not been that
problem in other areas.
215. And Newark, have you got it right?
(Cllr Crawford) In addressing the regeneration of
the riverside, we actually included youth, tenants' associations,
and everyone else, right at the very beginning, in the planning
of it. We also included the Crime and Disorder Partnership, and
we have CCTV coverage just in case; and also we have planned for
the marina area some 30 resident moorings, so that, hopefully,
while people are living there, they will also provide added security,
it is the eyes and ears of the people, if you like.
Chairman: You have all been very helpful; thank
you very much indeed. We will ask for a supplementary note. Thank
you very much.