Revised plans to redevelop a historic Birmingham church hall have been met with vehement opposition from conservation groups.
A planning application to demolish the locally listed Glynn Edwards Hall in Acocks Green and build a replacement community hall is set to be considered by the city council’s planning committee in November.
The Edwardian hall, built in 1924, is part of a cluster with the Acocks Green Baptist Church and the Arthur Moore Hall. But while the other two are Grade II listed by English Heritage, Glynn Edwards Hall has no statutory protection.
Last year the Acocks Green Baptist Church and development partner Stockfield Community Association, which has been trying to build a community hall for more than a decade, withdrew earlier plans to demolish the hall and build a modern community centre in the face of widespread criticism.
As well as objecting to demolition, many felt the proposed replacement hall was out of keeping with its historic neighbours and too large.
Now they have returned with two designs for a replacement hall which they claim are better designed and less over bearing to its historic neighbours.
The church says that the cost of upkeep of three historic buildings is too great and that it needs the new hall to generate greater income to enable it to look after the two listed building.
In a statement to the planning department the church said: “The church wishes to continue existence on the current site. However the church does not have sufficient finances to provide for this in the long term.
“Without refurbishment and income to provide this on an ongoing sustainable basis the future looks bleak.”
It adds: “The proposed developments will provide a lasting heritage for the church, the local community and the listed buildings.”
The developer says that in consultation locals were 75 per cent were in favour of the new development.
But conservation groups have objected to the scheme and are calling for Glynn Edwards Hall to be retained.
English Heritage is objecting to both the demolition and the replacement building. Inspector of Historic Buildings Katriona Byrne said: “English Heritage reiterates its previous objection to this application on the basis that it results in the substantial harm to heritage assets as a result of the demolition involved and the aesthetic imprint of the replacement building.”
She argues: “It is both a building of heritage value in itself and as part of the group of buildings to which it belongs. The planning, layout and dates of construction testify to the historical development of the site, the growth and importance of the Baptist movement in this part of the city and its relationship with the city’s economic and social development. Demolition therefore would result in a loss of communal, historic, aesthetic and evidential value.”
The view is echoed by the 20th Century Society and Victorian Society.
Tim Bridges of the West Midlands Victorian Society said: “We are totally opposed to the loss of a locally listed building and heritage asset which is clearly part of a group with the Edwardian listed buildings.
“We are also opposed to the current design of the proposed replacement building, which is not only larger in scale than the Glynn Edwards Hall but of a much plainer design, and in our view a less appropriate neighbour to the listed buildings than the existing structure. In our view the existing Glynn Edwards Hall should be retained and refurbished along with the grade II listed buildings.”
The Acocks Green Focus Group has campaigned to save the building.
Spokeswoman Julia Larden said: “The proposed new building is ugly, deeply inappropriate to the area and frankly not needed – they want to put an unemployment training centre in to an area with higher than average employment for the city.”
She said that the public consultation carried out by the developer has been heavily spun with questions loaded to gain support.