The Paralympics are set to close a week on Sunday with a performance by Coldplay to bring an end to what we are now duty bound to describe as Britain’s great sporting summer.
It also means that the clock is ticking on Birmingham’s Big Screen as its temporary planning permission was set to see it through the Olympic summer and is due to expire in December.
Those with long memories will remember that the screen went from an entertaining sideshow to one of the city council’s most expensive and drawn out planning fiascos, leading the former council leader Mike Whitby to describe the matter as “not our finest hour”.
And that hornets’ nest of legal wrangles, planning disputes, protests and challenges could be stirred up again if the current council leadership decides to keep its flat screen.
The screen, which was first installed in September 2007, became a monolith to political and bureaucratic incompetence as it remained silent for its first two years while costing more than £1 million.
This was way over its initial £365,000 budget – most of this was put up by the BBC to allow for the screening of rolling 24 hour news and sport coverage.
It was designed and pushed by the council’s Conservative leadership and championed through the planning process by the former director of regeneration Clive Dutton.
This was in spite of huge protests from the conservation lobby, supported by overwhelming planning guidance, that such a modern feature should never have been put up in historic Victoria Square in close proximity to the listed Council House and Town Hall.
Mr Dutton attended planning committee whenever the matter was discussed and forcibly argued that the site was ideal as the historic backdrop would present a good image of Birmingham whenever the watching crowd appeared on television. It was also thought to encourage tourism and there was some suggestion it could be used to sell advertising.
The current chairman of the planning committee Mike Sharpe, who was then the opposition Labour group’s planning committee spokesman, argued strongly that Centenary Square was a far more suitable venue.
But with Centenary Square being set aside as building site for the new library, this was not deemed suitable – particularly as much of the square would be out of bounds during the Olympics.
Eventually, and in a bid to get the screen up and running in time for the 2007 German Market, political pressure was applied and the screen was granted planning permission – at one stage as a late agenda item.