The architect who designed Birmingham Central Library believes city council plans to demolish the building are being driven by "commercial greed" rather than genuine concerns about cultural provision.
John Madin spoke out after a council scrutiny committee heard that the 34-year-old building would have to be flattened to make way for the redevelopment of Paradise Circus.
A £15 million capital receipt from selling the land upon which the Central Library sits will help fund the £193 million cost of building a new library in Centenary Square.
Mr Madin, who heard one councillor describe his creation as an "ugly eyesore", said he feared the civic heart of Birmingham, marked by the Council House, Museum & Art Gallery and the Town Hall, would be destroyed by the type of commercial development planned at Paradise Circus.
He said: "They are proposing to put a tower block in front of the Town Hall. It is fundamentally wrong and commercial greed, in my opinion."
Mr Madin accused the council of allowing the Central Library to deteriorate over many years and said local authority officials were exaggerating the cost and difficulty of improving and expanding the building in order to skew the case for a new library in Centenary Square.
He added: "The ground floor can be extended if required, as originally planned, and can even be further extended when the fast food shops are removed from the entrance and courtyard.
"The Central Library is not inflexible. It is designed with an open flexible plan on every floor with no structural walls to inhibit the free and easy alteration of its layout. It was particularly designed to meet any future requirements with regard to technical developments over the 21st century and beyond."
Criticism of the architectural quality of the Central Library – famously described as "looking like a place where books are burnt" by Prince Charles – was not supported by those "better qualified to comment", Mr Madin added.
The council is facing a nervous wait to discover whether Central Library supporters win their fight to have the building listed as a structure of special architectural merit – effectively derailing the redevelopment of Paradise Circus.
English Heritage, which turned down a similar request several years ago, is to inspect the library and make a recommendation to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Today's scrutiny committee saw several bad-tempered exchanges between council leader Mike Whitby and Labour councillor Peter Kane, who said the business case for the new library looked as if it had been "drawn on the back of a beer mat".
Describing the comment as "facile", Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said cost estimates for the Centenary Square library were drawn up be "professional people whose reputations go before them".
Several councillors pointed out that the estimated £147 million cost of improving and extending the Central Library would provide 5,000 sq ms more space and be almost £50 million cheaper than the proposed Centenary Square library.
Councillor Martin Mullaney (Moseley & King's Heath) said: "To Joe Public, extending the existing library is a far better option. You would have a bigger library at a cheaper cost and you wouldn't have to shoehorn it into a car park next to the Repertory Theatre."
Council chief executive Stephen Hughes said there was no question that £193 million cost of the new library could be covered, underwritten if necessary by the local authority. Mr Hughes said a 33-acre land bank had been identified which could raise a minimum £165 million at current day prices.
Clive Dutton, council director of regeneration, said there was an "insatiable appetite" among private sector developers to buy sites in the city centre.
Mr Dutton added: "If we were a small town talking about this sort of financial scenario, one would understand that people would be worried. But this is Birmingham, the second biggest city, where we count capital investment in billions.
"Please trust me that we know what we are doing."
The £193 million cost of the library would be a "mere bubble" in the amount of cash the council would be likely to get from planning gain over the next few years – the Section 106 payments developers give to councils in return for planning permission – Mr Dutton claimed.