Our Canal Heritage Is Being Destroyed by “Vandalism by Consent”


Cambrian Wharf

In this article, retired Doctor Ted Hiscock pens his frustrations at failing to influence the powers that be to conserve our local heritage – an essential part of the character of Birmingham and surroundings towns and villages.

As an example, the submitted planning application for a tall modern apartment block to replace the canal side popular live music venue, the Flapper pub, does not blend well with the Cambrian Canal Basin or the nearby listed dwellings.

Dr Ted Hiscock who lives in Kingston Row, near the Flapper, gave up his modern apartment nearby several years ago to live in a traditional Birmingham canal environment listed dwelling.

Frustrated is how he finds his efforts to focus on conservation with the Birmingham City Council’s  Conservation & Planning Department and the commercial organisation that owns the Flapper pub.

See his recount below then then view his major paper:


which follows his recount.


“As you know, over the last 12 months I have tried many approaches to have Civic Close, Farmer’s Flight, Birmingham Canal Network, Cambrian Basin conserved in some way. They are important features that are part of the heritage of this great industrial city but conservation seems not to fit with the modern idiom for the future.

I have failed in this quest despite approaches to Historic England, Canal & River Trust, BCC Conservation & Planning Departments, Regional Mayor, MP, Ward Councillors, press and television. Some have taken me seriously, discussed policies, tried to explain their small corner of responsibility and even met me on site; a couple of low-key specialist canal-based magazines have published articles.
Sadly, others have frankly been so totally ignorant as to not even acknowledge my emails, despite having teams of staff whose supposed employment it is to respond in a courteous manner.  I have copied all those elected and employed relevant officers into this email.

Firstly, I do now have confidence that the network of Birmingham canals is in the good hands of Canal & River Trust and the recent canal edge planting in the central area and repair of top locks of the Farmer’s Flight bear witness to this as a good start, meaning that my paper should be renamed as “Save Our Heritage”.

However, I am disappointed with making zero progress in other areas and would like to exemplify.
One aspect in my paper of last year “Save Our Heritage – Conserve the Birmingham Canals” (attached) criticised the flagrant disregard of Conservation Areas in the city and in particular, the Jewellery Quarter Area which currently embraces a few hundred metres of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal as it descends the city through that engineering masterpiece of the Farmer’s Flight of Locks.
I accused the Planning Department of  this city of ‘Vandalism by Consent’ permitting the creation of the vulgar and tasteless modern Urban Canyon of high rise development on both sides of this fine historic waterway.

By permitting these dreary blocks an intimidating no-go zone for boaters, cyclists, runners and pedestrians has been created with little regard for the specific  rules and regulations concerning the ‘conservation’ of designated ‘Conservation Areas’.

Does the planning department employ anyone with vision and can no one see the detriment it is creating? It would seem that BCC can circumnavigate it’s own rules, (where the rest of us have to obey them) by simply de-designating any area of such important historic heritage that causes retrospective embarrassment and doesn’t fit the developers’ dream investment programme. 

Surely, the creation of Conservation Areas is supposed to prevent this soulless vandalism? I was told only two days ago by a reliable source that the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area is being redefined; which will cut out that part involving the canal.   Shame on Birmingham City Council, who is bending the rules to suit its own obsessional worship of development money at all costs.

BCC now employs a team of three conservation officers, (until 6 months ago there was only one), whose job it is to police 30 Conservation Areas, monitor the care and protection of over 4000 Listed properties and scrutinise all Planning applications with regard to impact on those in its care,  yet a Grade 2 Listed crane next to The Flapper Pub, fell down two years ago, was cleared away by BCC and disappeared. Within the last two weeks it has been located after I have bullied the conservation officers incessantly to find it.  Apparently, it has turned up in a sorry state in a Council store in Hockley. 

Vandalism by Neglect. What has happened to the Civic Trust Award given in 1969 to Civic Close, Kingston Row and Flapper Pub (previously The Longboat, which received a recommendation in 1970)? Go to Civic Close and Cambrian Basin and see the poor state of maintenance of that area.
It is a 5 minute walk from the prestigious Brindleyplace, Symphony Hall, ICC, Arena Birmingham, Library of Birmingham, The REP, Civic Gardens, yet is a neglected and vandalised parkland where the only respect left is by those who live around it, tired of complaining and trying to keep a respectable life going.
BCC has failed its citizens here.  Soon, it is likely that developer money will speak loudly again and change the Flapper into a cash cow of private apartments.

Where has BCC pride in the city’s History & Heritage gone?
A vast high-rise block is now being built alongside the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal lower down and next to Pugin’s world famous architectural masterpiece, the Catholic Cathedral of St Chads. Is this not Vandalism by Consent? How did that get through?  Money must be the answer! 

What protective plans are in place for the integrity of the waterways for 2022 Commonwealth Games? 

If you seriously care about the future of this city, write to those who represent your views and interests; you may have better luck than me. If you have time, glance at my attached document if you have not seen it before.
Many thanks for your interest and attention.”

View his published Major Paper:


It is intended to act as a discussion document with the Planning & Development Unit of Birmingham City Council, Canal & River Trust, National Trust, Historic England, relevant elected politicians in an attempt to up-grade and protect the canal routes and areas along them for the prosperity of the city and wider West Midlands area.

Do please comment below on this either in support or otherwise of Ted’s quest. It is an important debate.

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