One of Birmingham’s architectural and historic gems is being kept under wraps to make money for the owner, it has been alleged.
Now the city’s planning committee has ordered an investigation of work being done at the Methodist Central Hall in Corporation Street to check it is genuine.
The landmark building’s ornate Victorian brickwork has been shrouded in scaffolding and a huge advertising banner since 2005, so that restoration work could be carried out.
The Central Hall is grade II-listed by English Heritage, one of the highest forms of preservation order for a building and architecture.
Now the owner wants its third temporary planning permission for the banner, claiming that the economic downturn has slowed down their ability to complete the work. The previous temporary planning permission has expired.
But building tenant William Noblett, who runs Michelle’s La Bastille French restaurant, claims they are simply stalling to earn more income from the adverts.
He told the planning committee that the scaffolding had no platforms or landings for workmen to check brickwork or window frames – that it was simply there to support the banner.
He said: “This is one of the finest buildings in the city but there has been no building or restoration work for the last 13 months.
“This banner is an ugly and a grotesque scar, not only on a special building, but on the city.”
The allegation was denied by the applicant advertising firm Signature Outdoor Limited, whose spokesman Steve George said: “Restoration and repair work has been carried out. But due to the economic downturn the plans have changed.
“This cover provides protection for the building and the delicate brickwork. The scaffold is essential for replacing the windows.”
But the planning committee was not convinced.
Council planning officials had claimed there was “sufficient justification” to grant a further temporary approval for the banner, but the committee postponed making a decision and ordered officials to fully investigate the extent of works on the building.