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New life for former Birchills Canal Museum

By Charlotte Callear | Attractions | Published:

New life is set to be breathed into a historic former canal that has been a hotspot for antisocial behaviour.

Birchills Canal Museum

Plans to convert the old Birchills Canal Museum, which has stood empty for well over a decade, have been given the go ahead.

The Grade II listed building, on the west side of Walsall Top Lock, will be transformed into a three bedroom house under new proposals.

After being vacant for some years, the building has fallen into disrepair and has fallen victim to vandals and drug users.

It is hoped the new proposals will help enhance the building and the area nearby without making any major alterations to the exterior of the historical building.

Council leader Mike Bird has welcomed the plans to transform the building.

He said: "Obviously there is a lot of history to it. The heritage of canals and buildings in the Black Country are legendary.

"The word is that we have more canals in this part of the world than they do in Venice which is something to be very proud of.

"It is sad to see buildings in the area being pulled down so lets hope this is a catalyst with other old buildings to become something more meaningful by being converted into homes.

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"I want to pay tribute to people who have had the confidence to do something different with an old building which had become a block on the landscape."

A report to Walsall Council's planning committee reads: 'The environment within which the former Museum is located is notably anti-social, with regular meetings taking place to review the situation.

'There are groups of teenagers that regularly congregate at the public toilets, drinking and taking drugs and constantly smashing empty bottles along the canal tow path, making it a less than desirable area to visit.

'Our Clients propose to bring the building into use and maintain its integrity, and believe that their only option is to convert the use to Class C3 as a single dwelling house.'

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'The proposals are intended to have minimal impact upon the structure of the building with a lightweight timber extension to the rear of the property being formed. The important frontage of the building will have minimum alterations made to it, consisting mainly of refurbishment of existing features.'

It was formerly the Boatmans Rest which was built around 1900.

It was one of three in the West midlands canals operated by the Incorporated Seamen and Boatman's Friend Society and the other two have since been demolished.

The museum closed in 2003 and some artefacts on display at the museum were moved to Walsall Museum as part of their permanent collection.

The building went under the hammer for £90,000 to £98,000 in 2014 with plans to redevelop into a residential development comprising two separate units.

A year later, an application was made to demolish the existing extension at the rear of the building and as part of this proposal it will be rebuilt to become a three-bedroom property including one ensuite bathroom.

The first floor will be completely open plan with kitchen, dining and lounge area. There is currently access from the first floor to the roof of the proposed extension which will be used as a roof top garden.

Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear
@CCallear_Star

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office

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