Thursday 27 October 2011

Tipton Boat Gauging Station

The Black Country Society has written to Sandwell MBC expressing its opposition to the renewal of planning permission to convert for residential purposes the Boat Gauging Station, Tipton.  In 2007, led by Vic Smallshire, Chairman of the Dudley Canal Trust, organisations such as the Inland Waterways Association, Birmingham Canal Navigation Society, the Black Country Society, the Victorian Society, the West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust and Tipton Civic Society campaigned against this development without success.  However, due to the economic turndown it did not go ahead but Stoford Living Ltd has now applied for renewal of the planning permission.

The Boat Gauging Station was built by the Birmingham Canal Navigations in 1873 to calibrate boats so that the tonnage they carried could easily be measured and the correct tolls charged.  The process was carried out in two docks inside the building and the Tipton building is unique in this respect, most boat gauging stations having only one.  Although it was last used in 1966 for gauging boats, during its life tens of thousands of boats were gauged at the station.

The building to now part of the Factory Locks Conservation Area, and, as such, should have a degree of protection from development.  It is also a grade II listed building so English Heritage will need to be consulted before any changes are made to the appearance of the building.  However, although Sandwell’s Unitary Development Plan states, ‘The Council will seek to protect the Borough’s canal heritage, including canal side buildings and associated structures and areas around the canal network that are of special interest’ this rare survivor from the canal’s Victorian heyday is under threat.

The nearby Malthouse Stables are a good example of what can be done to convert a Victorian building, whilst retaining a water based purpose, and we would prefer that the Tipton Boat Gauging Station should return to a canal related use.  The Black Country Society is represented on the West Midlands Metropolitan Area Canal Partnership, as is the Dudley Canal Trust, and we would support the latter in the suggestion that the site should be returned to the soon to be established Canal and River Trust who would be best placed, as a charitable body, to raise funds to restore the building.

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