The last chances of Birmingham getting a Grand Central railway station at Eastside have disappeared after city planners approved a £350 million scheme for flats, offices and shops on land earmarked by supporters of the ambitious project.
The Curzon Park development on the former Parcelforce site, between the West Coast Main Line and the new City Park, will create almost 5,000 jobs.
Proposals by Grainger plc to build up to 670 apartments, 85,000 sq ms of office space and a 200-bedroom four star hotel in a crescent-shaped series of buildings were unanimously approved after council officials said the striking modern design would not detract from the Grade 1 listed Curzon Street Station.
Coun Douglas Osborn (Con Weoley) said: “This is a great investment in Eastside. It is precisely what we are about in promoting the city.”
Backers of the Grand Central scheme objected, calling for the site to be reserved for “future expansion of the rail system to serve the city centre”.
The 11-acre site is the last remaining parcel of land at Eastside large enough and close enough to the railway line for a new station.
Council leaders insist the £650 million refurbishment of New Street Station, expected to be completed by 2013, will address Birmingham’s rail needs for the forseeable future.
Network Rail has said in the past that it has no plans to build a fourth main line station in Birmingham, although it does not rule out the possibility in the future.
Grand Central’s supporters fear an improved New Street, while having capacity to cope with many more passengers in airport-style passenger concourses, will be unable to cope with an increase in demand for rail services and will do nothing to solve the bottleneck of trains queuing to get into the station.
They argue the cramped nature of the New Street site makes a new station on the outskirts of the city centre inevitable within the next 20 years.
Planning officer Richard Goulborn said Curzon Park would enhance the setting of Curzon Street Station, which once marked the start of the Birmingham to Euston line and is reputed to be the oldest railway terminal in the world.
Mr Goulborn said in a written report: “The new buildings have been specifically designed so that their scale is at a maximum in the centre of the site, then gradually decreasing in height in both east and west directions to the Digbeth Branch Canal and the station building.”
New buildings closest to Curzon Street would be no higher than the building itself, Mr Goulborn added.
Curzon Street Station remains un-used, but the facade will be renovated as part of the Curzon Park development. The council is continuing to market the station building and hopes to attract a new tenant soon.
David Enticknap of Curzon Park Ltd, said: “Development Securities and Grainger have worked closely with Birmingham City Council to develop a masterplan providing a wide range of modern buildings set in high quality landscaped public spaces. Curzon Park will make a significant contribution to the regeneration of Eastside and the Big City Plan.”