English Heritage is calling for the former Bank of England building in Birmingham city centre to be saved from demolition.
Although the 1970s structure in Temple Row is not listed, the conservation watchdog believes it makes a significant contribution to the ambience of St Philip’s Cathedral Square and is urging the city council to think carefully about approving a £70 million redevelopment of the site.
The warning was echoed by Birmingham Civic Society, which has concerns about the design of the proposed replacement.
Property fund Henderson Global Investors has submitted an application to knock down the bank building and replace it with a 10-storey office block.
Henderson’s proposal for 190,000 sq ft of Grade A offices was drawn up after months of discussions with council leaders who are backing the scheme which they say underlines the robustness of the Birmingham economy.
Henderson insist a public consultation exercise uncovered agreement to redevelop the site with “a building that is more fitting to this location”.
But English Heritage West Midlands director Tim Johnston said he could see no reason to demolish the existing building.
Mr Johnston added: “Our view is we would rather see the building kept. We think it makes a contribution to the Colmore Row conservation area
“It is part of Birmingham’s rich legacy of buildings and we would certainly hope it can remain in place.”
Asked about city council support for the Henderson plan, Mr Johnston said: “We and the council beg to differ on this one”.
Civic Society spokesman Glyn Pitchford said he hoped the council would not “drive through” approval for the new building regardless of concerns about sensitivity of the site, which he believed had been the case when granting planning permission last week for the 35-storey British Land tower in Colmore Row.
Mr Pitchford said it was “extremely unfortunate” that the council’s political leadership appeared to disregard concerns about the impact of the British Land tower in the conservation area and he hoped a similar attitude would not prevail for the Temple Row application.
He added: “The Civic Society likes the former Bank of England building and believes that any replacement has to be treated very sensitively.
“We can understand that a case could be made to preserve the building.”
He said the Civic Society hoped to hold talks with Henderson before deciding whether to lodge a formal objection.
Mr Pitchford said: “We are concerned about the impact on St Philip’s Cathedral and we are monitoring the position very carefully.
“We would like to talk with the developers to see if we can influence the design.
“It has to be recognised that a new building will remain on this site for the next 60-odd years so we have to get the design right.”
Eva Ling of the Birmingham 20th Century Society is also calling for the existing building to be saved.
Mrs Ling said: “This is a building of high quality and great presence. Certainly it should be retained.”