Birmingham’s new central library is officially described as a “major flagship for the regeneration of the city”. But Alan Clawley wonders who really benefits from landmark building schemes: The Stirrer [6.4.09]

Those of us who have been around a long time in Birmingham can recall the ambitious claims that were made about big prestige projects like the National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre and the National Indoor Arena.

The theory behind these projects, known as “trickle-down”, was that spending large sums of public money on big buildings would give the private sector the confidence to invest in office blocks and apartments and shops and so increase the flow of rates into the Council’s coffers which would then be spent on alleviating poverty and deprivation in the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

We now know this hasn’t worked for ordinary Brummies, but it has given us the likes of Brindleyplace and gated communities like Symphony Court in the midst of Ladywood, officially ranked the poorest place in the UK.

Academics Loftman and Nevin published a study in 1992 which concluded that the money the Council spent on prestige projects took away the very resources it needed to deal with deprived areas.

Today’s city fathers are of course too excited by their own prestige projects to learn from history . . .

The claim that the Library of Birmingham is crucial to the city’s regeneration is the latest in a long series of false justifications for demolishing the Central Library.

Read the whole article here.

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