Another quiet day in Paradise

Alan Clawley is really struggling to garner a useful reaction from Birmingham City Council.


Paradise Place


Despite my request to the Council for information under the Freedom of Information Act about the terms of the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) for the redevelopment of Paradise Circus, I have, in the 3 months since I applied only received four ‘holding’ letters.

My request was of course for documents that one must presume already exist. Indeed it would be worrying if a JVA had been signed and sealed without extensive formal documentation and legal paperwork as well an exchange of letters emails and phone calls.

The requested documents would set out the terms of the JVA between Birmingham City Council and Argent in respect of the proposed development, the basis of the City Council’s application to the Local Enterprise Partnership for £61.3 million in respect of the development and the purpose for which the money is required with details of how it will be spent.

The Council has already hinted that sensitive commercial considerations may prevent me and the public from knowing the terms of the deal they have cooked up with Argent plc and their sole financial backers, the BT Pension Scheme.

There are no competing commercial interests because Argent plc is the only private company in the running to do the redevelopment. They won the ‘contract’ without a tendering process or competitive bidding, so there is no justification for secrecy. But as this is a joint agreement the City Council cannot act on its own and tell us what is in their side of it, so it has to ask its commercial partner whether they want the documents to be made public. No doubt Argent’s lawyers are being consulted before they answer.

In the meantime, according to an email from the Council’s Director of Property Peter Jones in February this year, the Central Library, Conservatoire and Fletchers walk are to be demolished to facilitate the commencement of ‘infrastructure works’ in 2015. Mr Jones went on to say that the developer was continuing to review the construction phasing with the intention that, where possible, to keep Paradise Forum and surrounding commercial areas as operational for as long as possible as long as the development programme permits.

The Library demolition and site clearance cost will, said Mr Jones, be contained within the overall development cost of the Joint Venture Company. However, he declined to say what that cost will be and how it would be shared between the partners.

Finally, he advised me that Local Services were currently developing an interim management plan to secure and maintain the exterior of the library upon vacation in August 2013. The interim management plan, he said, will be operational until the joint venture partners [sic] and the Council’s land ownership is transferred in August 2014. Once again, we are not told on what terms the Council’s land is being transferred to the developer and vica versa. It is certain however that these ‘sale’ are not to be advertised in the open market nor will bids be invited from other developers to assure us that the Council will get the best price for its assets.

Whilst I am grateful for such snippets of information, we are entitled under the terms of the Council’s own Strategic Development Protocol, to have the full picture. In the absence of a reply to my FOI request I can only assume that the Council and its chosen developer either don’t have any good news to tell us or they are making it up as they go along.


7 thoughts on “Another quiet day in Paradise

  1. If I am not mistaken, this tellingly-named “Argent” (French/Latin word for money) are the same property investment geniuses who bought the Five Ways shopping centre and chucked out nearly all the tenants a few years back, thus needlessly destroying sound local businesses and creating a load of unnecessary long-term voids (but so, so enhancing the quality of the area), and thereby somehow resulting in a massive extra inflow of argent to their coffers. Hubris comes before nemesis so the saying goes. It takes a fool to admire the ideas of a fool. And there’s an amazing lot of foolishness to be admired in the secondrate city just lately.

  2. this is the problem our council is becoming more secretive and certainly more commercial getting the truth out of the council is like pulling teeth, and from the redevelopment of the central library to the imposition of wheelie bins there is no consultation and when you ask embarrassing questions the old bogey man of sensitive information comes out

    • To be fair to them at least the council aren’t poisoning millions of people as the National “Health” Service and Department of “Health” are with their nasty lies about dental amalgam (see some of the proof by searching for:
      foi requests dental amalgam )

  3. I’d love to see the information given to the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP which persuaded it to part with £61.3 million by accepting that the redevelopment of Paradise Circus will (a) generate 12,000 new jobs and (b) result in a net increase of £180.5 million in business rates over the 25-year life of the Enterprise Zone. Nearly everything Argent and Birmingham City Council have said publicly about the redevelopment suggests that they’re hoping to cater for business relocations (i.e., old jobs in a new place) and nearly everybody (with the apparent exceptions of the LEP, the Council and Argent) knows that business rates are going to have to tumble in the next decade to address the consequences of the on-line revolution. Forward-thinking authorities, meanwhile, are looking at what can attract people to work, visit and spend in urban areas. And so they’re looking to increase footfall and draw by seeking highly competitive business rates and building things like art galleries and looking at preserving cultural (including architectural) heritage …

    • What Alan Clawley is doing here is important and I think it should not be a one-man campaign. Any other Councillors bothered about this, any people of influence in the city concerned, any other journalists looking for stories? Ideas please.

    • “What Alan Clawley is doing here is important and I think it should not be a one-man campaign.”

      Indeed, but the way life works is that people don’t buy prevention they only buy cures. Like in my campaign against the “pedestrianisation” of Corporation Street plenty people got bothered – but only *after* it had suddenly been sprung on them the same day as the works started in June last year and too late to work up a weight of support for the legal challenge. If the new “paradise” ever starts to materialise then people will be roused to objecting likewise too late.

      “Any other Councillors bothered about this, any people of influence in the city concerned, any other journalists looking for stories? Ideas please.”

      The problem is the media is in the pocket of all the big money round here, and editors fear to step out of line. And the councillors likewise. A list of people who tell the truth could begin with Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Steven Lennon, Edward Snowden, Andrew Wakefield (at least insofar as he believed so). And what do that hugely disparate group all have in common (besides all being of the ‘inferior’ sex)?

  4. its great to see that there is a response to whats going on in our city, and you have to wonder at some of the planning applications, I asked under the foi why 22 affordable flats built at the maypole over an aldis supermarket are empty and have been for 4 years, while the council is housing homeless people in the hotel next door, I notified my mp steve macabe hes not interested, jack dromey shadow housing minister hes not bothered, Cllr bore wint answer me and the senior planning officr says thers nothing they can do about it even though it was a proviso in the application so you wonder if theres 22 empty 2 bedroom properties at the maypole how many elsewhere

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