The statue of a British Second World War hero will be given pride of place fronting Birmingham’s Broad Street under a £100 million transformation of the Five Ways Shopping Centre.
The tribute to Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, known as ‘the Auk’, will be moved to Broad Street if plans for the renovation and redevelopment of the run-down Five Ways Shopping Centre are approved.
The council’s planning committee looks set to approve the scheme, which will see the empty 12-storey Auchinleck House office block, transformed into a four-star hotel, complete with rooftop restaurant and conference centre.
Field Marshal Auchinleck was a key figure in the North Africa campaign against the Germans, laying the foundations for Field Marshal Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein, but is best known for his service in India both during and immediately after the war.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Indian forces he was responsible for ensuring the supply and reinforcement of General Bill Slim’s Fourteenth Army fighting the Burma campaign.
Birmingham-born General Slim later said that without this support the army could not have liberated Burma from the Japanese.
In 1947 the Field Marshal resigned as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army following disagreements over the policy of Partition.
His statue has stood in Auchinleck Square inside the shopping centre since 1965, when it was unveiled by the man himself, but its owners, Seven Capital, have pledged to place the him on one of the city centre’s key commuter routes.
However another piece of public art, the Bruce MacLean design on the side of the office block, will be removed and will not be included in the new scheme.
The company has pledged to set it aside for preservation if asked to do so by Birmingham City Council’s planning committee.
The conversion of the office block into a 300-room Park Regis Hotel, to be operated by the Australian Staywell Group, was approved by the city council in January.
A meeting of the planning committee on Thursday (March 1) will consider the wider regeneration of the Five Ways Shopping Centre site.
In a report to the committee, planning officer Joanne Todd said: “The proposal would result in the reoccupation and refurbishment of an existing vacant and run-down prominent site as well as introducing new commercial facilities to an established location.
“The proposal would also significantly improve the visual appearance of the site and surrounding public realm.”
The planning application also attracted three letters of support, which called it a positive step towards regenerating the area and welcomed much needed investment in Birmingham. There was only one letter objecting to the scheme.
Apart from a handful of ground floor shops which have remained open, the rest of the Broad Street complex, built in 1962, has been vacant for the best part of a decade.
Several attempts to convert or redevelop the building as apartments, offices, student flats and hotels have faltered. The last set of plans developed four years ago for offices, a hotel, student flats and shopping mall fell victim to the economic downtown,
The Staywell Group is well established in Australia and the Far East, but this hotel, its first in Europe, will be a flagship for the company’s expansion on the continent.
The entire development is expected to create up to 500 jobs. If approved, construction could begin later this year with a view to opening in 2014.
Transport authority Centro has proposed the owner makes a £60,000 contribution to local bus infrastructure.