A £13 million plan to refurbish Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is dependent on raising money from advertising banners draped across the Grade ll* listed building, it emerged last night.
But city council leisure, sport and culture cabinet member Ray Hassall said it was intended to place advertising placards on scaffolding protecting the Victorian structure for up to four years while building work takes place. He hopes to raise about £280,000 by selling the advertising space.
Coun Hassall (Lib Dem Perry Barr) said the move, to be ratified by the cabinet next week, was entirely separate from controversial plans to place permanent promotional banners on the museum walls advertising forthcoming exhibitions.
A cabinet report discloses that some contracts for advertising, worth £150,000, on the scaffolding have already been agreed.
The report warns that further income "beyond that already contractually secure" is required in order to continue with time-critical work on preparing for refurbishment before the result of a bid for £9 million of lottery funding is known. An application to
put up six 20-ft high banners was put on hold earlier this month after the city planning committee said the proposal would destroy a beautiful building.
Members voted by six to four to reject an application for banners, totems, graphic panels, poster boxes and display plaques to be put up at various points at the museum and the Council House.
After the vote took place, the application was deferred by chairman, Coun David Roy (Con Sutton Vesey), and will return to the committee later in the year.
Committee member Coun Peter Douglas Osborn (Con Weoley), who is the council's heritage champion, likened the proposal to "putting a mini skirt on the Venus de Milo" and voted against.
Coun Hassall said he would ask the committee to reconsider, adding that Birmingham simply wanted to come into line with other major cities.
He added: "If you go to the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum you will see banners all over the walls. I can't understand the comments made by the planning committee."
He said he wanted to better promote about forthcoming exhibitions at the museum and art gallery.
"We have something that is free of charge, but if we don't tell people what is on they won't come in," Coun Hassall added.
Birmingham Victorian Society spokesman Stephen Hartland said yesterday there would be no objection to a temporary scheme to place advertising on scaffolding while restoration work took place, as happened with the Town Hall. But permanent approval, involving attaching banners with steel cables and eyelets fixed into the stonework, would be "wholly unacceptable".
Mr Hartland added: "No reasonable person would think it right to disfigure a Grade ll* listed building by covering the facade with permanent advertising banners."