A fresh attempt to get approval to switch on a giant television screen that has lain unused for two years has been launched by Birmingham City Council.
The council has already spent £1 million constructing a plinth for the 15ft high BBC-TV screen in Victoria Square and on legal fees to fight office workers who fear the noise from programmes being screened throughout the day will be too much to bear.
But a fresh planning application proposes baffles on top of the screen to protect the Waterloo House offices and seeks temporary permission for three years.
Council planning officers insist tests show there would be no increase at all in background noise levels for workers in the offices.
But in the Council House and the Town Hall, which face the screen, there would be a “just noticeable change” in noise levels, according to a report to the city planning committee. The report adds that the screen would be audible in the Council House, “but only if someone listens carefully”.
Planners also reject a torrent of complaints about the impact the modern structure would have on the historic architecture of Victoria Square, which is in a conservation area where new development is subject to stringent rules.
The council’s own conservation and heritage panel described the screen as a “monstrous” intrusion which would ruin the tranquil nature of the square.
Birmingham Civic Society and Birmingham Victorian Society warned the ambience of Victoria Square and listed buildings including the Town Hall and Council House would be destroyed by the screen, which will show programmes from 7am to 11.30pm.
The owners of Waterloo House obtained an injunction preventing the screen from being switched on.
The High Court agreed in a judicial review that the council had failed to state adequate reasons for giving planning permission.
The injunction is still in force, but will not apply if the fresh application now before the committee is approved on December 10.
In a written report to the committee council planning officer John Davies argues that the screen, which will show major sporting events, local news and public information, will encourage tourism in the city centre and add to the vitality of Victoria Square.
Mr Davies adds: “It has been designed to complement the character of existing street furniture and sculptures within Victoria Square and the location is such that it would have minimal impact on the setting of nearby listed buildings and the character and appearance of the conservation area.”
Views of the Council House would only be “fleetingly” obscured by the screen, Mr Davies added.
The report added: “I consider the proposed modern design of the public broadcasting screen with the stonework plinth replicating other more recent stonework in Victoria Square is a significant improvement on the previous design.”