A Government Minister is being asked to rule for the second time in four years that Birmingham's Central Library is a building not worth saving from demolition.

City Council director of regeneration Clive Dutton has applied to Culture Secretary James Purnell for an Immunity from Listing Notice - effectively clearing the way for the council to knock down the 33-year-old building.

If granted, the notice would block any attempts by the Friends of the Library group to have the 1960s structure in Paradise Circus listed and protected as a building of special architectural merit.

Mr Dutton argues that the library, which according to the council does not meet modern standards and has an estimated repair bill of more than #20 million, is no longer fit for purpose.

Its demolition is essential to the successful regeneration of Paradise Circus, he claims. The library, designed by renowned Birmingham architect John Madin, has raised strong passions among experts.

Birmingham Civic Society called it "soulless" and not worth keeping.

However, city architect Andy Foster, in a film for this year's Artsfest, commented: "The Central Library starts where most other Birmingham buildings stop. Here is a masterpiece in front of our eyes, and yet every influential person in Birmingham wants to pull it down."

The Birmingham 20th Century Society campaigned unsuccessfully for the building to be listed in 2003.

The DCMS said then that the library was an "interesting building", but not worth special protection. Mr Dutton's intervention comes two weeks ahead of an expected council announcement that the new Library of Birmingham will be built on land between Baskerville House and the Rep Theatre, in Centenary Square. The multi-million project is also expected to involve a makeover for the theatre.

He said listing the Central Library would have a "catastrophic" effect, both on proposals for a new library and the redevelopment of Paradise Circus.

Mr Dutton said: "We have been developing plans over a number of years to replace the library with a new Library of Birmingham, a world-class centre for knowledge, learning and culture.

"The Library of Birmingham will not only be a state-of-the-art resource, it will also act as a major catalyst for the wider regeneration of the entire city centre and beyond.

"If the existing Central Library were to be listed, this would have a catastrophic effect on the council's plans for not only the Library of Birmingham, depriving local people of the world-class facility we feel they deserve, but also for the future redevelopment of Paradise Circus and west end of the city centre."