It is 10 years since Birmingham announced its intention to copy major European and American cities by learning to love skyscrapers.

The policy suffered something of a reversal following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which forced many developers to scale back their plans, but the passage of time appears to have put tall buildings firmly back on the agenda.

Beetham Tower soars above the southern gateway to the city centre, the V Building will lend a dramatic new presence to Broad Street, while the 35-storey British Land Tower in Colmore Row awaits planning permission.

But very tall buildings are not to everyone’s taste.

The Birmingham Civic Society has urged caution in the past, while the city’s Victorian Society has declared itself aghast at proposals like the British Land Tower replacement for the NatWest Tower which it argues is totally out of keeping with historic buildings in the Colmore Row Conservation Area.

Joe Holyoak, chairman of the Victorian Society’s casework sub-committee, has been a constant thorn in the side of the council over the matter of tall buildings.

He was removed a year ago from the council conservation and heritage panel, after 20 years' membership.

The sacking of a man who derided the council’s tall buildings policy as "fantastic nonsense" was seen by many as a political act. Undaunted, Mr Holyoak was back in the fray this month with a letter to The Birmingham Post in which he described the British Land Tower proposal as "political, economic and architectural opportunism".

His views, however, cut little ice at the Council House where the ruling coalition has made clear its support for "appropriately designed" tall buildings.

The dash for the sky is backed by strategic director of regeneration Clive Dutton, who said of the V Building: "It is leading the way for us as a city to throw down the gauntlet and proclaim Birmingham as an international force to be reckoned with."

Council leader Mike Whitby was instrumental in organising an international conference on the relevance of tall buildings in Birmingham in 2005.

Talking about his experiences on the other side of the Atlantic, Coun Whitby said: "Chicago is a classic example of how tall buildings can enhance a city’s international reputation.

"There are a range of tall buildings but they do not dominate. It is a question of subtlety and sophistication of design."


British Land Tower, Corner of Colmore Row and Newhall Street
Yet to get planning permission, 35-storeys440ft
A £160 million scheme to include high quality office space, retail and a rooftop restaurant. The sensitive location, on the Birmingham Ridge at the highest point of the city centre and in the Colmore Row Conservation Area, has already provoked strong opinions. Birmingham Civic society says it is 90 per cent happy with the height and design, but the Birmingham Victorian Society says the proposal is an "incongruous leviathan "which will detract from the splendour of the Council House and St Philip’s Cathedral.

The structure will be 12 storeys higher than the existing NatWest Tower, making it by far the tallest building in this part of the city centre. British Land is promising the new tower will be a shining example of sustainability, with a green roof to provide a habitat for protected bird species.

Ballymore Snow Hill, Snow Hill Queensway
Work about to begin, 43 storeys, 450ft

Described as the tallest purely residential block in Birmingham, the new tower will have 330 apartments and will be linked to a 23-storey five-star hotel and conference centre. Both towers will open out onto one of five new public squares, forming pedestrian links with St Chad’s Cathedral, the Jewellery Quarter and the Gun Quarter. Ballymore’s £400 million Snow Hill scheme, on a site which has lain vacant for 30 years, also includes two large office blocks which are already under construction.

V Building, Suffolk Street Queensway
Work may begin later this year, 50 storeys, 500ftl
Part of the Arena Central development and designed by world-renowned architect Eric Khune, the V Building will be the tallest habitable structure in Birmingham.

Developers Dandara wowed city planners when they unveiled proposals for a £150 million soaring glass-fronted structure that will include 600 residential apartments, fine-dining restaurants, a sky bar and observatory. Residents will be able to enjoy a library, a spa and a private club room.Close to the Mailbox and Brindleyplace, and a short walk from the Bullring, the V Building will "catapult Birmingham into a city of real international kudos, such as Chicago or Barcelona", according to Dandara managing director Martin Clancy. The ground floors will be public areas with a mix of bars, cafes and shops.

Beetham Tower, Holloway Circus
Opened 2005, 40 storeys, 400ft

Postmodern shimmering glass structure forming a bold new gateway to the city centre, Beetham Tower houses an SAS Radisson hotel and 150 apartments as well as six five-bedroom luxury apartments with private balconies.

Originally planned as 44 storeys with additional spires shooting from the roof, the project had to be scaled down following objections from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Broad Street Tower, Broad Street
No date for work to begin, 38 storeys, 400ft
Developers Richardson Cordwell won planning permission a year ago for this £100 million scheme. It will be on the south side of Broad Street opposite Sheepcote Street and the Brasshouse pub.

The completed structure is likely to contain a 192-bedroom hotel, 342 apartment and 339 parking spaces.New Street Towers

New Street Station, Completed by 2013
30 storeys, 280ft
Proposed entrance to the refurbished New Street Station, the two towers will be built at the junction of Hill Street and Stephenson Street.

One of the towers will be largely residential and the other commercial.

BT Tower, Lionel Street,
Opened in 1969, 35 floors, 500ft

The tallest building in Birmingham and one of the city’s best known landmarks. Used for long distance communications, the tower supports are built over the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

Alpha Tower, Suffolk Street Queensway
Opened 1974, 28 storeys, 328ft

Prominent Birmingham landmark, used largely as council offices. Based on the Pirelli Building in Milan by architect Richard Seiffert.

Generally regarded as one of the more tasteful of Birmingham’s post-war office developments.

VTP200, Eastside
Under discussion, 656ft
Proposal for a vertical theme park which will, if it is built, be by far Birmingham’s tallest building. The £95 million structure would include a range of thrilling rides as well as an observation deck, hotel, bars and restaurants.

The Rotunda, New Street
Opened in 1965, 23 storeys, 265ft

Iconic Brummie landmark at entrance to Bullring shopping centre, awarded Grade ll listed status in 2000.

Survived IRA bombings in 1974, recently restored to provide luxury apartments.

Joseph Chamberlain Clock Tower, Birmingham University
Built 1900, 328ft
For decades Birmingham’s tallest building, until overtaken by the BT Tower.