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Birmingham Central Library ‘will be demolished’

Birmingham Central Library ‘will be demolished’

🕔31.May 2012

Campaigners fighting to save Birmingham’s Central Library have had their hopes dashed.

The 1970s building, designed by celebrated architect John Madin, will be demolished to make way for a £500 million redevelopment of Paradise Circus, city council leader Sir Albert Bore confirmed.

Sir Albert rejected a last-ditch attempt by Friends of the Central Library to incorporate the library into a regeneration scheme, adding that “exciting” proposals for the area were advanced and did not include Mr Madin’s building.

Sir Albert said he expected a formal planning application to demolish the library and regenerate the key city centre site to come before the council by the end of the year.

Developers Argent and Altitude unveiled a master plan earlier this year, with the backing of the city council, which proposes transforming Paradise Circus with new offices, public spaces and a concert hall. The Conservatoire and the Copthorne Hotel would disappear, along with the library, in a 1.7 million square foot redevelopment scheme.

The Central Library, once famously likened to an ugly book-burning incinerator by Prince Charles, could not be retained because its size would constrain redevelopment of the area, according to the developers.

An alternative masterplan, drawn up for Friends of the Central Library by Birmingham architect Joe Holyoak and Rob Turner of Eatarchitecture, places the library at the centre of a redeveloped Paradise Circus.

Mr Holyoak stressed that English Heritage have twice recommended the library for listing as a building of significant architectural merit, only to be turned down by the Government.

However, Sir Albert said he stood by the comments he gave to the Birmingham Post in October last year when he said: “My view is that the Central Library building must go to make way for the redevelopment of Paradise Circus.”

Sir Albert told Chamberlain Files: “Plans for the redevelopment of Paradise Circus are well advanced and I would expect a planning application before the end of the year.

“Argent really does want to get on with this. The position remains the same, the site will be cleared and that includes the Central Library.”

Sir Albert first proposed demolishing the Central Library and all other buildings in Paradise Circus in 2001, when as the then council leader he went to London seeking private sector investment for a huge city centre regeneration plan.

Both the current Labour council leadership and the previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition regarded the Central Library as a major obstacle to pedestrians attempting to walk between the central shopping area and Broad Street.

An important aim of the Argent/Altitude redevelopment scheme will be to open up views between the Council House in Victoria Square and the new civic library in Centenary Square, which is due to open in 2014.

Built in the mid-1970s, the Central Library was regarded as the last word in modern design when opened by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. But a lack of maintenance over the years and the changing demands of a modern library service left the building outdated and unfit for use, according to the council.

The Central Library was placed on an at-risk list by the World Monuments Fund last year.

WMF chief executive Jonathan Foyle said: “We can never afford to take for granted our irreplaceable and enriching cultural inheritance, but in an age of greater austerity this Watch further reminds to be vigilant, look after and enjoy historic places, many of which we could not afford to build today.”

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