Detailed plans for the new Library of Birmingham will be unveiled next month, allowing critics to discover whether the controversial cage-like covering for the £193 million building in Centenary Square remains in place.
Drawings showing the seven-storey building with a steel mesh provoked protests when they were unveiled earlier this year by Dutch architects Mecanoo.
Claims that a dispute over the design would delay an application for detailed planning permission was flatly denied by Birmingham City Council last night.
Campaigner Alan Clawley, who is fighting to retain the existing Central Library in Paradise Forum, said on a website that Mecanoo’s plans remained under “intense development” and were unlikely to be published until mid-September – endangering the tight timescale to complete the project by 2013.
However, a council spokesman said: “We are very much on course to submit a detailed planning application in August. Building work will start sometime next year and will be completed by 2013.”
The council, which is paying for the new library, conceded that some minor planning matters, such as the “colour of the doors”, might be decided later in the year but the substantive application will be considered by the city planning committee next month.
It is possible that the height of the building will be reduced following concerns it could detract from the 1930s listed Baskerville House.
New leisure, sport and culture cabinet member Martin Mullaney said he had “no problem” with the steel cladding, but was concerned about the height.
Coun Mullaney (Lib Dem, Moseley & Kings Heath) said: “It is a piece of modern architecture, and that is fine.
“Council officers tell me they are reducing the height of the building, but I haven’t seen the final designs yet.”
Council assistant culture director Brian Gambles, who is leading on the library project, told a scrutiny committee in May that Mecanoo’s initial drawings were a “concept design” that was likely to change.
On the question of the height of the new building, Mr Gambles said: “The planners are comfortable with it going higher than Baskerville House, but we are thinking not as high as the concept design suggests.”
He said the steel mesh cladding was unlikely to be removed completely, but could be scaled back.
Mr Gambles added: “As with all modern architecture, we are getting a mixed response.
“There are people who think it is genuinely exciting and a striking addition to the scene, and there are some people who really don’t like it at all.”