Plans to convert a landmark city centre building into offices have been met with opposition from conservation and heritage groups.
Both English Heritage and the Victorian Society are opposing plans for the removal of public arena space from the historic Central Methodist Hall in Corporation Street.
An architectural masterpiece, it has spent much of the last five years shrouded in scaffolding following several failed attempts to turn it into flats – due to the huge cost of converting a listed building. Last year the city council banned advertising from being hung on its ornate brickwork.
It also has a chequered recent history as the Que Club, where there were two stabbings in November 2009 and a death the previous year.
City planners are now expected to approve the conversion of the hall into offices, with 47 apartments above, at a meeting on Thursday. Conservation groups, while welcoming the restoration of one of Birmingham’s historic gems, are objecting to the loss of the public events hall inside.
A spokesman for English Heritage said: “The internal alterations are significant in terms of the removal of historic fabric and insertion of new development, with this level of intervention having a negative impact on the historic interest of the building.”
It has also called for the retention of the historic pipe organ.
A spokesman for the Victorian Society said: “We regret the overall loss of the main hall space, with its seating, as a city centre public events venue.”
There are also concerns over an additional storey at the top.
Leicester-based Developments Factory has made some amendments to its plans following feedback from the council’s conservation panel last year, including a pledge to clean and retain the organ as well as many more original architectural features.
Planning officials have backed the development saying that the regrettable alterations are offset by the need to bring the building back into viable use.
Case officer Alison Powell said: “The scheme would help to preserve and enhance the building.”