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Victoria Square big screen may be moved to Eastside

Victoria Square big screen may be moved to Eastside

🕔13.Feb 2013

screenBirmingham’s ‘big screen’ could be moved to Eastside as city council officials ponder what to do about the embarrassment of a facility that cost £1 million but sits switched off and unloved in Victoria Square.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward hopes to persuade Millennium Point Trust to provide a new home for the giant television, which could be re-sited at the new city park.

However, Cllr Ward admitted that his plan might collapse due to financial constraints.

Officials are investigating the cost of dismantling and moving the screen, which is placed on a large marble plinth in Victoria Square. Cllr Ward expects the bill to be “several thousand pounds”.

It remains uncertain whether Millennium Point Trust would be prepared to take on responsibility for and cover the future cost of running the screen.

The screen, which has been blank since December when planning permission for the Victoria Square site ran out, was the subject of a bitter battle between conservationists and the council’s former Tory-Liberal Democrat leadership.

Mike Whitby, Tory council leader from 2004 to 2012, championed the screen which he claimed would help position Birmingham as a major global city. But a decision to place the screen at the heart of the sensitive civic area, overlooking the Council House and Town Hall, infuriated the Civic Society and other conservation groups.

Having been moved to the front of the Council House from Chamberlain Square five years ago, the screen was initially run by the BBC and was to have been a focal point where people would gather to watch sports programmes, local news and concerts. It was suggested that council debates could be relayed live, although this never happened.

Council leaders didn’t reckon on a legal challenge from the owners of Waterloo House offices, who went to the high court to complain about noise from the screen. An injunction was obtained which meant that the screen could not be used until environmental concerns were addressed.

The council fought back in the courts, but eventually lost an expensive battle and was forced to provide a barrier to muffle the sound. It was confirmed in 2009 that the total cost to the public purse of providing the screen, including legal action, had topped £1 million.

And in the latest blow to the public broadcasting venture, the BBC has pulled out of all of the big screen initiatives it was involved in across the country.

Four years on and facing huge spending cuts, the council won’t relish spending more money on moving the screen to yet another home.

Cllr Ward said he had to face the possibility that the screen may have to stay where it is for the time being, risking a battle with the city planning committee which expects the structure to be removed from Victoria Square as soon as possible.

Cllr Ward said: “I am looking at the possibility of moving the screen to Eastside. The city park will have a public performance area which would be an ideal location.

“However, there will be cost implications which could be an issue in the current climate.”

He accepted that the screen may have to be dismantled and put into storage if an alternative home cannot be found.

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