Buried dreams


Possibly lost in translation, but there’s plans to convert this empty space into… an empty space, apparently. Whatever it is, it definitely won’t be a new Tesco.

In the miasma of stuff that passes by in the local news stream, I spotted this one from the Express & Star the other day, and It’s puzzled me. I can read the subtext clearly enough – Tesco aren’t coming, get used to it – but there’s other stuff in there that I find a bit perplexing.

You can read the article on the Express & Star website, and I’ve also transcribed it at the foot of this article.

Of course, it could just be inattentive reporting, but this is rather odd. It seems we have a new Regeneration officer, and they’ve decided Brownhills needs some love. Great, good start. I think we’d all support that – I certainly do.

Apparently, we’re clearing the ‘artworks’ out of Ravens Court (or the marketplace – what?) in order that we can hold functions and events in the precinct. Ravens Court has no artworks – it has a wrought iron gate affair, erected in the late nineties, and some artful ‘boulders’ which were clearly approved by someone with an interesting sense of humour at the same time. This peculiar street furniture hasn’t prevented events occurring there previously, like the Christmas Magic event in 2010.

I was under the impression that Ravens Court was privately owned, as that’s why the fancy paving stopped at it’s borders. Is this now the council’s to prettify? What, indeed, happened to the Tesco it was to be demolished to build? Didn’t Tesco buy Ravens Court, or did they get the Council to acquire it for them?

The former marketplace is now so empty it could double as a heliport, and last year, the Canal Festival expanded into that space anyway. I’m puzzled as to why we need a regeneration officer’s permission to do that.

There’s also the question of ‘bringing up footfall’. Out of 20 or so units in the dilapidated, slowly decaying precinct, only 2 within  the space are occupied. Footfall to what, exactly, is not clear.

What is clear is that there’s no money for this. The following quote is a beauty:

Mrs Rolls added: “We’re trying to get businesses to take ownership of the town,” added Mrs Rolls. “We also want to encourage businesses to give something back to their loyal customers which we’ve seen to be successful in other areas. It’s all about supporting your local high street.”

In other words, we’ve got no cash, you’ll have to pay for it yourselves.

Walsall Council, having sold Brownhills to Tesco for a quick knee trembler and a handful of ridiculous promises, is now telling local businesses they royally shafted that they have to pay for this flight of fancy, implying there’s no cash on the table.

Never mind, your local community activists are on the case. There’s absolute outrage, petitions and campaigns. Councillors are fully supportive. The hubbub is only about the trees on the common, regrettably, but it’s keeping them all occupied. The Quixotic village elders are distracted by tilting at their self constructed windmill, and may only actually notice the rest of the town is buggered when they’ve seen off the conservationist hoards.

Of course, none of them swallowed the council regeneration line the first time, did they? If they had, one could understand them avoiding the subject.

Brownhills is a very literary place these days. It a few short years, it’s gone from Bleasdale-esque tragedy, called in at Monty Python surrealism, gone through Brian Rix farce and is now paying a call at Dario Fo. Sadly, the community will continue to pay, even though it can’t.


Apparently, these rocks are artworks, no longer fit for purpose. I had no idea they ever had one at all.

Plans revealed for site of old Brownhills Market

Summer and Christmas events will be held on the site of the former Brownhills Market, under plans revealed today.

It is also hoped a rundown shopping area in the town could be turned into a civic space, with the old artwork being taken away and empty units given a new lease of life.

An events calendar will be drawn up, with festivals to be held in the summer and throughout the festive period. Council chiefs will approach businesses for their backing.

Potential sites identified by officers include the former Brownhills Market site and Ravenscourt.

Nikki Rolls, town centre regeneration officer for Walsall Council, said the proposals had been drawn up to attract more traders and visitors to the town.

“We’re trying to come up with innovative ideas to bring people into the town,” said Mrs Rolls.

“We understand Brownhills High Street is in need of some severe regeneration, such as the Ravenscourt area. 

“There’s been a lot of artwork pieces put in there that are at least 30 years old. They haven’t been managed or maintained and they are no longer fit for purpose.

“This is not a thriving area, so we plan to remove the artwork and use the area as a civic space. It’s a safe pedestrianised area, so we could use this to bring up footfall.” 

Mrs Rolls added: “We’re trying to get businesses to take ownership of the town,” added Mrs Rolls. “We also want to encourage businesses to give something back to their loyal customers which we’ve seen to be successful in other areas. It’s all about supporting your local high street.” 

After the town won a silver award at the Heart of England in Bloom competition last year, the Town Centre Partnership is now looking to revamp the area in a bid to win a silver gilt award in this year’s competition. 

To achieve this, the team is looking at clearing overgrown areas, window wrapping empty units to make them more attractive and producing a town shopping guide.”

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20 Responses to Buried dreams

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    I saw this, too, and recognised the comments as regeneration-speak. There are many terms for this tongue: waffle is among the more polite.

    It would have been more informative to describe what is meant by “proposals had been drawn up to attract more traders and visitors to the town”.

  2. Warrington Cuthbert smyth. says:

    Brownhills heartbeat was once its thriving market. Without the market, Brownhills has very little to bring to the table when luring in punters/shoppers. There needs to be a monumental amount of investment in the place to give it a chance.
    I am afraid we are on a downhill slope and have some way to go before we reach the bottom.

  3. Nikki Rolls says:

    Hi Brownhills Bob,
    I would of thought by now you know how reliable the Express and Star are in terminlogy used in their articles. I can confirm the wording used in this article was not my words.
    This story came about from a business contacting them regarding their new support for Brownhills. All of which i heard nothing about and suggested they may have their wires crossed about projects concerning the old market area.
    I did however explain what the BROWNHILL TOWN CENTRE PARTNERSHIP (BTCP) are working on to improve the town and some of the projects earmarked for this year including the creation of a BTCP events calender, utlising the market area for events etc to increase footfall in the town, Brownhills In Bloom and improving Ravenscourt.
    Again i think your sources may be slightly mixed up. Ravenscourt buildings are owned by a private landlord but the foootpath area is still owned by Walsall Council.
    Since taking over Ravensocurt i have increasing reports of ASB in this area where kids and young adults are using the public realm improvements here (the old poles that once had hanging baskets from, railings and lighting infrastructiure) to gain access to the first floor flats causing criminal damage and using this space as a congration area for illegal activity as confirmed by the police.
    Part of the suggestions made to improve this area is to hoarding the empty units and use the boarding to promote the town in a innovative way (this to be decided by the businesses) and to remove the public realm to open the space to use it in the furture as a civic space area (again this would be a business decision on how to use this in the future.)
    BTCP is set up for the businesses, charities, community groups, churches, police, and ward councillors to work together to tackle issues that affect the town that is within our power of the partnership. Everyone that attends, plus information collected from business visits is included to form a live action plan full of projects that we work towards achieving on a yearly basis, which is reviewed within the BTCP meetings.
    The partnership does have a small budget to improve the town which of causeis agreed by the BTCP.
    We are also looking at other funding streams to enable the partnership to deliver some of the larger projects to improve the town.
    Isnt this big society thinking? working together in looking after their town (Brownhills)? isnt this what is needed to start to change the negative image of the town?
    The article should of been about how the businesses are working together in tackling issues that is achieveable for the partnership to improve, giving something back to Brownhills. Surely your supoort this?
    Tesco and the Ravenscourt units are not within the capability of the BTCP, this is a strategic development issue, not within the remit of District Centre Manegment and not within the remit of BTCP.
    Hopfully you will support BTCP and the projects they plan to do within our town centre.
    I am more than happy to meet you in person and explain in full the projects that the partnership is working on. Please give me a call to meet up 01922 654324.
    Kind regards

    • Hi Nikki. Good to hear from you.

      Let’s cut through the waffle, shall we?

      The Brownhills Town Centre Partnership isn’t a new thing and has been going on for a year or two now – they’ve always had my full support. Whenever they’ve asked, and in many cases where they didn’t, I’ve advertised their events and functions.

      It was very sad last year that with the departure of Antonia that Brownhills had no Christmas Magic event as the two previous years.

      All the stuff – Brownhills in Bloom etc, is a welcome continuation from previous efforts. It’s welcome, as it always has been.

      The local committee some years ago successfully fought for the High Street to be repaved. You’ll note the repaving stops at the borders of Ravens Court, leaving the peculiar situation that only half the footpath is block paved in front of the sops. This was attributed at the time to the private owners of Ravens Court not playing ball. The complaints from shopkeepers will still be in the archive, no doubt. Mostly about drainage, an issue that still persists.

      There’s a photo of the paving from 7rin on Panoramio. Note only the extreme outer of the path is paved – http://www.panoramio.com/photo/16781839

      Removing stuff being used to access rooftop canopy is a good idea, however I’d urge you to pay attention to where the kids most easily get up there – from the back. As a clue, that’s worsened since Tesco built the fence to screen the eyesore of Ravens Court off from their car park. However, It shouldn’t lead to a loss of lighting. That area is dark enough at night.

      This article should *have* been to your agenda? No, it shouldn’t. You want to get a positive message out, use the comms unit or email me. I’ll run it if there’s substance, just as I always have. This release was clearly to the E&S only and didn’t appear in the stream from Walsall.

      The real issue is that Brownhills was promised a huge new development that never came, and was largely abandoned to the wolves. If what the council were promising had happened, Ravens Court would be rubble by now. Instead, it was virtually cleared of retail tenants and the flats emptied of residents that gave it occupancy protection, then abandoned. That’s pretty shameful, really. I’ll continue to call that one out.

      So, just to clear it up. I supported the Town Centre Partnership long before you were on the scene, and will continue to do so. You can’t really do much with Ravens Court, although I welcome genuine environmental improvements. I will continue to worry about the lack of support the town has received in terms of development from Walsall. You don’t really have much budget.

      This blog has been supporting and raising issues in this town for four years. Like your predecessor, I’ll meet you if I need to. This isn’t a day job – I live here and love the place. Folk may not always agree with me, but I give a toss.

      If you want to get your message out first, send me your press releases.

      Finally, if the E&S are really messing with your quotes, I’d be calling a constable.

      Best wishes

  4. The Man They Could Not Hang says:

    TC Partnerships are by no means a bad idea in principle.That it has been formed at all is a good sign for Brownhills. It is a shame that it needs to be done, but all support to Nikki in her attempt to at least do something.

    However, everyone will suffer eventually. The dominance of one particular interest group over another will be reduced to profit and loss equations. Without intervention, small businesses will close and all High Streets will eventually close.

    No doubt Bob wil take up the offer of a dialogue and explain why he has not given his support to an initiative that is at least making some attempt to deal with the 40 year malaise of Brownhills High Street.

    I fear not, as he is no doubt compiling his next music list and/or scrutinising a bus timetable for evidence that Gilbert Allsop was once resident at Barons Court and used public transport to arrive at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

    Just a thougt.


    • Oh hello old fruit. Something awfully familiar about your style. Can’t put me finger on it.

      There’s been a town centre partnership here for some years. They’ve always had my broad support. Never been shy to run their events, promotions etc. See the minutia in my reply to Nikki.

      Dialogue is better in public fora, where it can be scrutinised by those who wouldn’t normally have access. They really need less jaw-jaw and more war-war.

      The music lists are compiled automatically, old chap, and Gilbert Alsop’s footballing career sadly ended long before even the Watersplash existed, let alone Baron’s Court. He may have had a pint in the Boot or Travellers, mind.

      You just can’t keep away.

      Best wishes


    • Pedro says:

      Sorry for the timetable, I thought it was still in use!

      • Hey Pedro,

        Keep them coming. There’s plenty of us here (me included) who aren’t averse to a bit of nostalgia.

        I aim to make some folk smile, and some frown. On a good day, I get them the right way round…


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  11. mickysix says:

    I am trying to work out when Bob has never stood up for Brownhills, as TMTCNH seems to be saying! Well unlike myself he still lives there and it seems to me, trying to get something better for the town. Yes he psses the council off and lots of other people. But if i’m honest these people deserve it.

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