Blowers Green U-turn by C&RT?

February 2018 - After finding it faced a united front of opposition from boating and canal organisations in Birmingham, Canal and River Trust may be about to make a U-turn on its plans to sell the freehold of the historic Blowers Green Pumphouse, as Peter Underwood reports.

C&RT's bid to sell the freehold was first spotted in early January when a tiny laminated notice- posted just as the Christmas break began - was seen near Blowers Green Pumphouse, in Dudley.​

The notice was a formal announcement that C&RT, as a Trustee of the Waterways Infrastructure Trust, was proposing to sell the freehold of the historic pumphouse and anyone with objections has just one month to put them in writing. Now it has withdrawn the building from sale and is considering giving up the idea of selling the freehold.

The Birmingham Canal Navigations Society and the Dudley Canal Trust protested about the sale and C&RT's 'sneaky' way of announcing its intentions. The National Association of Boat Owners leapt into action with a formal objection letter to C&RT's Estates Department in Birmingham from NABO chair Stella Ridgeway.

She said: “The Blowers Green Pumphouse, a listed building (ref SMR 7297), is an important part of the heritage of the canals, having being built in the early 1890s to house a recirculating pump to raise the water levels between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. It is exactly the type of building that meets the Canal and River Trust’s charitable objects, which state: '2.2 To protect and conserve for public benefit sites, objects and buildings of archaeological, architectural, engineering or historic interest on, in the vicinity, or otherwise associated with inland waterways.' "

NABO went on to point out: “Should the freehold be sold, CRT will be powerless to preserve this building for public benefit.

“The pumphouse currently provides services to boaters and is on a popular route out of the city, down Delph Locks to the Staffs and Worcs Canal, which is a particularly interesting route for boaters who are interested in industrial heritage.

The building is currently leased to Dudley Canal Trust and Alan Hazeldine, a Trustee, told The Floater: "Dudley Canal Trust currently leases the Pumphouse from C&RT and has been notified of their intention to dispose of the property. They have said that they intend to retain the Service Block part of the building for boaters.

"My understanding is they wish to place the building for sale at auction and we are unaware of any parties interest in purchasing the freehold."

More than two weeks after The Floater's initial request for information, C&RT's press office in Birmingham has produced a statement that suggests it has been forced to think again.

It says: "We’ve had a number of responses to the proposed sale of Blowers Green Pumphouse, many of which have regarded the future of the customer service facilities located there. In fact, it has always been our intention to retain the existing customer service facilities at the property after sale by leasing them back at no rent so that we could continue to provide these important facilities to boaters.

"Following the notice period and the comments received we intend to give further consideration to the site. In particular we would like to assess whether offering a long lease of the property, rather than disposing of our freehold interest, might be a better solution and give greater control over the future use and maintenance of the property.

"While we consider this option the property is not on the market. The outcome of our deliberations may result in further public notices being posted in the future which will give people the opportunity to comment again."

Not a complete capitulation by the Trust's property department – often seen as being out of control - but a clear indicator that it is feeling the consequences of its decision to attempt to sneak through the sale of an historic canalside property through unnoticed.

Photos: (1st) Blowers Green Pumphouse - a listed building and historic canal structure, (2nd) The laminated notice pinned up just as Christmas began.

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