The possible closure of Council offices in Birmingham through spending cutbacks, along with a proposed downgrade of staffing levels, could hamper the bid to see Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter becoming a World Heritage Site.
The reduction in Council support has been blamed for the threat, according to the city’s Conservation and Heritage Panel – the historic building ‘watchdog’.
The Council reportedly spends £30,000 a year on office space in the Jewellery Quarter for its back office staff, and budget pressures are now forcing Council bosses to begin looking for alternative locations. This could include a move to new offices in Birmingham city centre.
According to the Birmingham Mail, David Mahony of the Jewellery Quarter Association expressed his concerns that moving away from the area would send the wrong message to the deciders of World Heritage Site status, UNESCO.
“We have craftsmen working in the same way as they have for 150 years. In any other European city this would be a major tourist trap. If we lose representation in the Jewellery Quarter, UNESCO will believe we are not taking this seriously. It will cost at least £70,000 to make the bid. We need to know that we are not wasting our time.”
Cabinet member for Regeneration Neville Summerfield said:
“We are moving back office staff into the centre, but they will still be working on the Jewellery Quarter.” He said that they intend to keep a smaller office in the Jewellery Quarter, “but will not pay £30,000 a year for an office we do not need.”
If Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter was to obtain World Heritage status, it would put it on the same UN protection list as the Great Barrier Reef , The Great Wall of China, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Pyramids, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.