Acocks Green Ward Meeting 4 September 2013 certainly had its moments. That was even without the councillors being startled by two passionately presented petitions on non Conservation related matters where usually there are no petitions: ‘It’s like buses, you wait for ages and two come together.’ Fortunately Acocks Green does passion though; we care about where we live. Squeezed somewhat hastily into a corner of Acocks Green Baptist Church (The previously advertised and famous Glynn Edwards Hall being suddenly and uncountably ‘double booked’ at the last minute’) the general public heard that the latest Glynn Edwards Hall demolition plan has just been delivered to Birmingham City Council Planning. (Not yet on weekly lists … we will let you know … )
Now, one of the now standard justifications for demolishing the much loved Grade A locally listed Arts and Crafts Hall which makes an important contribution to the street scene on the corner of Yardley and Alexander Roads, is that somehow demolition will help protect its nearby sister Hall, the Statutory Grade II listed Arthur Moore Hall, also part of the Acocks Green Baptist Church complex of buildings and which is undoubtedly in need of some TLC. Here’s a couple of reasons why The Arthur Moore needs TLC:
This window has been in this state for a long time: it was photographed over a year ago, when it had probably already been like this for some time, and observed to be still broken on 4 September 2013.
And note this chimney … it has a shrub forcing apart the brickwork. This why the chimney is damp inside the building.
The Arthur Moore is suffering from damp through lack of basic maintenance and attention to problems like these, and it is clearly deteriorating because of these problems. We first highlighted the problem with the chimney and the window, together with other problems like leaking guttering over a year ago, in the summer o f 2012 – see our flicker file on our visit to the Baptist Buildings, summer 2012 It is notable that Nothing has been done since then.
So, we were unsurprised when sure enough the plan proposers came up with one of their favourite chestnuts: ”The Arthur Moore is falling down, falling down …’ (It gets quite catchy, no?) Er,, no it is not falling down. We’ve looked all over it – every room and every part both inside and out, with a leading Birmingham Conservation architect (Joe Holyoak) and the local MP (John Hemming) . Both have confirmed by email with us that the building is still remarkably solid, and that our estimate of around 120K spending on it being required, mainly because of damp penetration problems, but also because of needed improvements like a central heating boiler is about right. This could be done. We now know that The Heart of England Baptist Association, which covers Acocks Green, has Â£330,00 in available funds and gives out grants and loans for building repairs. Last year, Yardley Wood had Â£1,000, Stechford had a Â£1 320 recently, Shirley had nearly Â£3,000 and Chelmsley Wood had a cool Â£100,000. HEBA report on their good year and are looking at ways of streamlining their grant giving facilities … SeeHEBA Annual Report 2012 We estimate that the work to the window, the chimney and a leaky gutter would come in at around Â£1,000, so why have Acocks Green Baptists asked HEBA for nothing?
We put all of this to the Acocks Green Baptist committee delegates who admitted:
- They had not carried out minor repairs because the congregation ‘could not afford’ them and no they had not approached HEBA for funds.
- They appeared not to have discussed with the Acocks Green Baptist congregation their decision to leave the valuable and important Grade II listed building with damp penetration whilst arguing for its sister hall, The Glynn Edwards, to be demolished in the (convoluted) process of paying for renovation for the Arthur Moore.
When asked about the possibility of approaching HEBA for Â£120,000 the response stunned the audience. After hedging that HEBA had not got the funds (Yes it has. Their last report says so.) The next reason offered was that the building needed a lot more than Â£120,000 spending on it. It was stated that our estimates were wrong. It was a lotlotmore. (Think traditional builder sucking in of teeth.) The next logical question was put: sock it to us then – what else then did the building need – we were all ears, so what were the other problems apart from damp? John Daniels of Acocks Green Baptist Church refused to answer. ‘So it is a secret then?’ ‘Yes it is a secret’.
This was followed by cries from a stunned audience. ‘Why is it a secret’? Mr Daniels, looking rather (as one member of the audience noted later) as though we had asked him the colour of his underpants continued to defend his personal ‘secret’ in the face of our outrageous nosiness. He didn’t have to say he blurted out, looking slightly red faced. Eventually he came up with if he told us we might ‘nit pick’.
Mmmm up to this point the audience had possibly been wondering whether the Arthur Moore got a particularly embarrassing form of fungal infection, that is best not discussed in public? But ‘nit pic’??? The Arthur Moore has nits??? Ah well, in the days of the nitty Nora nurse that was maybe a bit … Poor Arthur Moore Hall.
So now we have ‘The secret of Arthur Moore Hall’ a truly Gothic little mystery concerning another much loved and (ever so slightly) crumbly, atmospheric 1903 Grade II listed building with, a number of winding passageways and, it seems, Acocks Green’s own dark secret.
The discussion turned to the consistent and puzzling evasiveness of the plan proposers. As one member of the audience put it in this whole saga, ‘Something seemed to be not being said.’ (‘With them it’s like un-peeling an onion layer by layer.’ one politically experienced member of the audience noted later.) Someone else observed that The Glynn Edwards was a ‘running sore’ in the community. Cllr Stewart Stacey (Lab Acocks Green) decided that enough was enough. The plan proposers he said needed to be more open and transparent in order for the neighbourhood to have a proper dialogue with them. So far this had not happened.
Will we get more transparency? Watch this space.