Two major city centre regeneration schemes with a total value of £150 million have been given the go-ahead amid claims that Birmingham is on course to build its way out of the recession.
Planners approved a new magistrates courts complex at Eastside and a 10-storey office block on the site of the former Bank of England Building in Temple Row – which will now be demolished.
City councillors were unanimous in their enthusiasm for the courts, on the Masshouse Plaza site off Moor Street Queensway, which won lavish praise as the best modern design to come before the Planning Committee in decades.
Award-winning Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall’s sculptured shape faced in aluminium panels with “glazed box-shaped projections” was described by committee chairman Peter Douglas Osborn as being of the highest possible quality.
The £81 million development will house 24 court rooms over 13 storeys and will replace the current Victorian facility in Corporation Street which is listed Grade I and cannot meet current building regulation standards.
Council regeneration director Clive Dutton said the courts project and the new Temple Row building represented an important vote of confidence during challenging economic times.
The best British and international designers were queuing up to bid for work in Birmingham following critical acclaim for projects such as New Street Station, the British Land Tower and the new city library, he said.
Although the courts will be paid for by the Government, the redevelopment of the Bank of England site is being financed by Henderson Global Investors – one of the world’s biggest investment houses. Work will begin on site in the first quarter of 2010.
The new building in Temple Row will be substantially larger than the existing structure, which was built only 38 years ago.
Conservationists have criticised the design which they claim will overshadow nearby St Philip’s Cathedral and is out of keeping with Georgian buildings in the Colmore Row Conservation Area.
English Heritage said the bank building had “intrinsic merit”, was a good example of Birmingham’s fast-disappearing 20th century architecture and should be saved.
A heritage assessment carried out for the council described the former bank as one of the city’s more prominent modern buildings, but not worthy of being given special protection by being listed.
Mr Dutton said: “The courts building will be a really special addition to the city and represents another confidence booster in difficult times.
“It can be added to the £6 billion of investment in Birmingham which is pending or already taking place.”
Mr Dutton said the Temple Row office scheme would create 1,000 jobs.
The design of the building would be a sensitive addition to a historic part of the city centre, he said.
Committee member Councillor Ian Ward (Lab Shard End) said: “It is pleasing to see that modern architects are capable of designing things other than glass boxes. The new courts, in particular, will be a real marketing asset to the city.”