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Calls for changes to major Birmingham office proposals

Conservation Panel raises objections to plans for a £40 million tower block on the corner of Livery Street and Cornwall Street, next to Snow Hill Station.

CGI of the new tower proposed for Cornwall Street
CGI of the new tower proposed for Cornwall Street

Plans have been lodged for a new 13 storey office block at the heart of Birmingham’s business district – but conservationists want them to be curtailed.

Both historic building watchdog English Heritage and Birmingham’s own Conservation Panel have raised objections to plans for a £40 million tower block on the corner of Livery Street and Cornwall Street, next to Snow Hill Station.

They both fear that it is too overbearing and will harm the Old Contemptibles Pub and neighbouring buildings, including the Unison union headquarters, in the Colmore Row conservation area.

West Register, the property arm of RBS, is behind the planning application to demolish the Peat House office block, which is nine storeys at its tallest point, and replace it with a taller modern block - complete with a restaurant or bar on the ground floor.

The glass and brick 1980s built Peat House was until recently home to KPMG accountants.

English Heritage said it has no objections to demolition of the existing building but is worried the new office is too large.

A spokesman said: “A less bulky and oppressive scheme that makes better distinction between the street frontage and a setback tower would be more suitable.”

This view was echoed by the council’s own Conservation Panel which said: “The height of the proposed building would result in it looming over the Old Contemptibles and the Unison Building and appearing overbearing.”

But council planning officers have recommended the block should be given the green light when the planning committee meets on Thursday, January 9.

They argue that tall office development is appropriate and 13 storeys is not excessive compared to other recent office developments in the Snow Hill area.

In a report to committee planning officer David Wells said: “Whilst I note the concerns of the English Heritage and the Conservation Heritage Panel, I do not consider that the proposed development would lead to more than substantial harm to nearby listed buildings or the character and appearance of the conservation area.

“Moreover, construction of a replacement office building provides an opportunity for the new development to make a positive contribution to the setting of the conservation area.”

He added that the regeneration benefits outweigh the impact on the conservation area.

 
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