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New £40m Birmingham Conservatoire plans set for approval

Planning officers say brick design, previously compared to an Oxo cube, is 'high standard'

City planners are set to give the green light to plans for a new classical music venue despite concerns over the design.

The proposed replacement for the Birmingham Conservatoire, previously compared to a cheese-grater and an Oxo cube, has been recommended for approval at next week's planning committee meeting.

The £40 million Conservatoire is to be built next to Millennium Point at Eastside as a replacement for the current facility which is to be demolished as part of the Paradise Circus redevelopment.

It will be seven stories tall and include a 500-seat hall, to replace the Adrian Boult Hall, and 200- and 150-seat rooms for smaller performances.

And, in a report to next Thursday's meeting, planning officer David Wells has dismissed complaints over the blocky brick appearance.

It will also have two entrances - a city one facing Jennens Road and a campus entrance towards Millennium Point and the Birmingham City University building.

He said that providing perfect acoustics was key to the design.

"It has dictated the use of brick which has a greater acoustic mass than glazing," he said.

Commenting on calls for a less brick and more glass, he added: "Given the specialist nature of the use and the need to ensure it provides the necessary noise attenuated performance and practice spaces, I consider the architect has maximised the amount of glazing."

He said: "Taking into account the special requirements for the building, the design is to a high standard and responds to its siting."

The planning application has won the support of the neighbouring Millennium Point.

Chief executive Philip Singleton said: "Eastside is based on the knowledge economy and this investment in students of music adds to the rich mix of science, technology, business and built environment subjects taught in this quarter."

There is a minor objection from the Thinktank Science Museum which is currently using the site as a coach park and wants the Conservatoire to assist in finding an alternative.

Last month, the planning committee, when asked for views on the design, gave a mixed response.

Coun John Clancy (Lab Quinton) said: "It is blocky and looks like an over turned cheese grater. It doesn't look modern, more like something from the 60s."

His colleague Martin Straker-Welds (Lab Moseley and Kings Heath) likened it to an Oxo cube.

But Coun John Alden (Con Harborne) was impressed, saying: "I think it's tremendous and am delighted we're going to have a brick building."

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