Nail in the Coffin Works

In November 2008 I blogged on the planning approval for regeneration work on Newman Brothers Coffin Works, Jewellery Quarter in remembrance, to transform the three story grade II* listed building into workspace for artists and a visitor attraction recreating the former workshops. The work which was costed at £3.9 million was awarded £1.5 million from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

Advantage West Midlands has now withdrawn it's £1.5 million funding towards the project after mothballing 65 regeneration projects following government cuts to funding which forced the agency to save £132 million.

The decision is a massive blow to the project with AWM having already spent £750,000 buying the Victorian building including stock and funeral artefacts and Birmingham Conservation Trust's six year work on the project on AWM's behalf draining them of their financial reserves. Birmingham Conservation Trust will not see income towards the project which is usually drawn at the end of a project. If the scheme does not go ahead a £250,000 grant from English Heritage will also be cancelled.

... the agency’s decision to cancel the grant is likely to leave the trust out of pocket. “We have so far only received a small proportion of our fees for the last six years of work on AWM’s behalf,” she said. "Most of our income is drawn at the end of a project. If our partner pulls out of the project it leaves us without the income. “In effect the trust has used up several years worth of financial reserves helping AWM progress this project.

The renovation of the building would provide another welcome tourist attraction in the city and compliment the historic Jewellery Quarter while supporting new businesses with the units. The building featured on the BBC's Restoration programme in 2003 and it had been hoped to get the building back into use.

Birmingham Conservation Trust has offered AWM a compromise, under which the agency would contribute £800,000. That would allow the former coffin works to be reopened for commercial use, probably leased as office space, with the promise that the museum and visitor centre would be opened at a later date when financial constraints have eased.


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