Monday, 30 July 2012

Trades Description Act

Moored as we were near to Gas Street Basin and watching the various trip boats go and down the canal from this "historic" site. I can't help but wonder if the trades description act would prohibit using the word historic as most of the old canalside buildings have been replaced since the 1990's by high rise flats.

I'm all for redevelopment of any old industrial area's. However where those areas have some historical merit. I only favour redevelopment as long as the historical context is maintained. This can be done by redeveloping the existing buildings or where new builds incorporate the look and feel of the area. I fail to see how some of the developments in and around Gas Street have done either. 

Some publications and web pages wax lyrical about Gas Street Roughguides for instance says: 

"Gas Street Basin is the hub of Birmingham's intricate canal system. There are eight canals within the city's boundaries, comprising no less than 32 miles of canal, and although much of Birmingham's surviving canal network slices through the city's grimy, industrial bowels, certain sections have been immaculately restored with Gas Street Basin leading the way. At the junction of the Worcester and Birmingham and Birmingham Main Line canals, the Basin, with its herd of brightly painted narrowboats, is edged by a delightful medley of old brick buildings."
Even the dear old BBC in Birmingham has been selling the myth:

"The canal is extremely important in Birmingham's history - without it, our city would not be anywhere near as important as it is today. Gas Street was the first street in the city have gas lighting, hence the rather unsexy name. In 1800, Birmingham was the hub of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the centre of England's canal network which stretched from Liverpool to London. However, today Birmingham's canals are buzzing with life again. The historic canals sit comfortably next to Broad Street, one of the city's busiest entertainment areas. You can take a canal boat tour, have your dinner on a boat or sit outside a pub on the canalside."

Now if I was a visitor to England looking to soak up some of the history of the inland waterways. I based part of my trip on what I read on Roughguides or the BBC. I would be very peeved about the dressed up prose when compared to the over hyped reality.

You could walk along many sections of nearby canal and get more of the ambiance of the industrial revolution and the part that the canals played by looking at derelict buildings than you ever would at Gas Street.

Other old canal basin and boatyard sites along the various canals have gone through this metamorphosis into distasteful canal-side development of little boxes complete with chipboard floors and furniture. Lock keepers cottages have been sold on to people who harbour objections to boaters even walking near their property.


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