Trust comes out against plans to flatten The Flapper

January 2018 - As the planning consultation on bulldozing the Flapper music pub on Birmingham's Cambrian Wharf and replacing it with high rise flats was closing the Canal & River Trust put in a powerful, formal objection to the city council, saying it should not go ahead, Peter Underwood reports.

In a move that will be welcomed by boaters and music fans Canal & River Trust has asked Birmingham City Council to reject plans by a developer to flatten The Flapper pub on the banks of Cambrian Wharf and replace it with nearly 70 flats – but it hasn't ruled out completely the redevelopment of the site.

In a formal letter to city planner David Wells, C&RT's Ailith Rutt, Planning Manager for the Midlands says that the application for redevelopment of the site of The Flapper Public House should not be granted. C&RT is a statutory consultee.

Like other objectors, Ailith Rutt says development is too big and out of place: “The height, scale, massing, materials and design of the proposed development would cause a visually overbearing impact on the canal basin and surrounding environment and result in an anonymity of architecture around the basin which would be unsympathetic to the heritage context and existing built form of the site and its surroundings,” in planners' language.

And boaters are at the heart of the C&RT objection with Ailith Rutt complaining: “No information has been submitted to assess the impact of shading on the residential moorings or on the recreational use of the basin.

“The noise assessment does not consider the impact of the existing use of the basin on the amenity of future residents.”
She describes Cambrian Basin as 'a non-designated heritage asset, which has designated heritage assets around it'.

These include two listed cranes located on the south bank, one within the Flapper site, a listed toll house at the top of the lock flight and a listed footbridge over the top lock at the mouth of the basin.

Ms Rutt points out that 'the character of the setting of this stretch of canal, and this city centre environment, is spacious and low density'.

She also points out: “The basin contains four residential moorings and as such the residential amenity of those living in the basin and any impacts on them caused by the proposed development should be considered, as it would for those living or staying in built form near the site.

“The impact of existing activities in the basin on potential new residents should also be given consideration. There is also a mix of long and short-term moorings within the basin whose activity and amenity also needs to be considered.”

Ailith Rutt makes a strong plea on behalf of boaters in Cambrian Basin, and any potential residents of the proposed flats, saying: “Due to its orientation, the proposal would shade the waterspace and therefore the boats in the basin. The proximity of existing and proposed residential accommodation raises some concern.

“Matters such as the amenity and privacy of those residing on boats in the basin must be fully considered, as ground floor uses looking out over the basin include living and bedroom space. This could result in overlooking and loss of privacy, as well as the overbearing impact of the height of the building on boaters who reside below ground level and to whom it thus appears even taller.

“The boats in the basin may run generators or use stoves to generate power and heat. The noise assessment does identify the canal and its users as sensitive receptors, but does not appear to consider them as noise generators with the potential to impact upon the residents of the proposed development. Therefore, no assessment has been made of the potential for noise disturbance from the boats, which should be considered, as well as the impacts of the proposed development on the boaters. (C&RT's italics)

“Due to the orientation of the site and proposed heights, detrimental shading impacts upon the basin would occur throughout the year. This is likely to adversely affect the amenity of the residential boaters and generally have a negative impact on the overall amenity of the basin.”

She places great emphasis on the open and generally low-rise nature of developments along with canal, with high rise tower block set well back from the water. “It is the Trust’s view that any alternative development proposals in this location should be sympathetic to the surrounding form, pattern and character of development and include reference to the historic setting in which it sits.

“The Flapper is low in height and bulk, and has external waterside space to address the canal basin and is appropriate to its surroundings in scale and massing. All the policy guidance that applies to this proposed development requires that new development responds to this local character and distinctiveness.”

She also points to the council's own planning policies, that specifically protect the canal and its heritage going on to say: “These proposals far exceed the prevailing character of four storey built form, resulting in the sense of openness around the wharf being lost, which would degrade the waterway’s value as a heritage and recreational asset and adversely affect the amenity of the residential boaters.

“The stark high-rise development shows no obvious reference to the canal setting and would not provide for any interaction between the flats and the waterspace. They would ‘close in’ the space rather than perpetuate and respect the current open aspect of this part of the city centre.”

Ms Rutt is scathing about the developer, saying their 'assessment of the impact of the proposed development on the surrounding environment is less thorough and results in conclusions that appear to have no evidence behind them'.

She goes on: “We consider that the impact of the proposal would harm the significance and setting of the heritage assets due to its design, scale, prominence and proximity.
The height, scale and massing of the proposed built form, and its location immediately on the waters’ edge result in an overbearing impact on the canal basin and surrounding environment.”

However C&RT is not completely ruling out development on The Flapper site, with Ailith Rutt saying; “Were a more suitable development, reduced significantly in scale and improved in sympathy with the historic nature of Cambrian Wharf to be proposed, the Trust would seek to advise on the following matters:

- The protection of the canal environment such as ecological enhancements (likely to include the provision of bird/bat boxes, specific species planting etc.)
- Protection during construction to avoid windblown litter or seepage of contaminants into the basin affecting the quality of the water environment
- Details of the method of discharging surface water to ensure that if it is into the basin that the water quality is not harmed
- Potential use of waterborne freight during construction.
- Working with developers on welcome pack information to highlight the benefits of the canal network on the doorstep and the sustainable transport network available to new residents
- Information around working adjacent to Trust property.
- Mitigation for the basin as a result of the impact of a proposed development, if appropriate, such as improved services connections for boaters.”

Photos: (1st) Developers ideas for what should replace it - 66 flats and a coffee shop, (2nd) Another view of the developers' proposals, (3rd) The Flapper - popular with boaters and a long established live music venue, (4th) Moorings at Cambrian Wharf - four residential and always many visitors on 14 day city centre moorings.

User login