Conservation watchdog English Heritage could step into the row over the future of a prominent Birmingham city centre site by asking the Government to include the NatWest Tower in Colmore Row on the statutory list of buildings of architectural importance.
Approval to list the 1973 building would delay or even put paid to plans by British Land to demolish the tower and build a far taller 35-storey skyscraper in its place.
It is the second time recently that English Heritage has been involved in making recommendations that could halt major regeneration projects.
Two weeks ago, the organisation said it was urging DCLG to list the Central Library - a proposal which, if approved by Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, would make it difficult for the city council to demolish the building and push ahead with a £1 billion redevelopment of Paradise Circus.
English Heritage first considered listing the NatWest Tower in December 2007, but decided the building was not worthy of special recognition.
There have been indications since then that English Heritage may be having second thoughts.
The organisation has been asked by DCLG for its views following an application by British Land to grant a certificate of immunity from listing - effectively granting a five-year breathing space to allow demolition of the NatWest Tower to take place.
A consultants’ appraisal of the building commissioned by British Land quotes a suggestion from English Heritage that the existing tower may make a “positive contribution” to the Colmore Row conservation area.
However, the report goes on to claim that the views expressed by English Heritage do not “stand up to close scrutiny”.
The report adds: “The building is an anomaly within the conservation area in terms of height, form and appearance.
“It is a landmark, but not an attractive one which does not provide office space to meet current standards.
“The building makes no positive contribution other than being a landmark, a role better fulfilled by a replacement building of higher quality design.”
Birmingham City Council’s planning committee criticised the proposed 441ft-high British Land Tower at a meeting last week, condemning the £160 million glass-fronted structure as over-development and out of keeping with surrounding historic buildings including St Philip’s Cathedral and the Town Hall.
But council regeneration director Clive Dutton said the scheme would create 2,500 jobs, provide an important boost for the city economy and be a suitable replacement for the NatWest Tower, which he described as “obsolete, charmless and not fit for purpose”.