It has been some time– actually back in October 2010 – that I wrote a blog about four monumental buildings in Aston that had been closed or were about to be closed and I wondered what would happen to them. Would they just be boarded up and pose a challenge to local boy groups to break into them? Or would alternative uses be found transforming the buildings once more into something alive and not just derelict?
Well, I can report now that three of the four buildings have reopened or are presently being refurbished for re-use. The first to do so was the former City Academy, a building only constructed in 2004 and in good condition. It is now being used by the Birmingham City Council. The offices of the Birmingham Adult Education Service are there, as is the Aston Community Learning Centre and the Aston Library. There were fears that the Aston Library would be closed altogether or be replaced by a mobile library going around not just in Aston but in the adjacent neighbourhoods as well. Fortunately , this did not happen and the Library just moved to its new location, even though it has less opening hours than before. Somehow cuts needed to be made.
The second building that has reopened is the old Aston Library and Aston Council House. It is being transformed by the Mohiuddin Trust, located nearby at Victoria Road, into an international college for girls, the second all girls school in Aston, both owned by sections of the Muslim community. The Trust acquired the building at a public auction and reportedly paid the amount of £450,000 for it. Parts of the building are in good condtion but other parts need a lot of investment to make it into a functional school.
The building that has been left boarded up longest is the M&B Guild Arms, the former pub at the corner of Witton Road and Ettington Road. It was already closed before we arrived in Aston over four years ago and our house has in fact been erected, as one of six, on the former parking and play ground of the pub. At present, construction work is going on both inside and outside and according to the new owner the pub will be remodelled into apartments.
That leaves the old Broadway School Annexe at Whitehead Road. The Area Action Plan of Aston, Newtown and Lozells, September 2009, lists the building together with the Firestation which, the report says, is programmed for closure and relocation. Two options are given for the whole complex: the one is community use, for instance an education centre, and the second is conversion of the buildings into residential housing. Nothing has happened so far. Perhaps the reason is that the School Annexe is in a bad condition and this may deter potential developers.
Even so, I must admit that the reopening of three out of four closed buildings is much better than I expected two years ago.