An ‘iconic’ Birmingham library and council office building has been pulled from sale following a challenge from backbenchers.
Birmingham City Council deputy leader Ian Ward agreed to withdraw the Sparkhill council building from auction after local councillors pleaded for it to be offered for community use first.
The former Yardley Council building in Stratford Road was to go on the open market - becoming the latest council property to be sold off - albeit with a guaranteed ten year lease back deal for Sparkhill Library to remain on site.
But now it will be offered up to local schools which are facing massive demands for extra places, while the prospect a community asset transfer with groups in the area will also be investigated.
Councillors Jerry Evans (Lib Dem, Sprinfield) and Habib Rehman (Lab, Springfield) issued the challenge complaining the community had not been consulted over the plan to sell the landmark offices, built in 1900 for the former Yardley district council.
Coun Rehman said residents did not want to see the building turned into ‘just another restaurant or banquet hall’. “It is important the building is maintained for public use.”
Coun Evans said that they had been given two days notice before the sale decision was taken. “This building is part of a community hub, with police station, Sparkhill baths and schools. This is meant to be the aim of our property strategy, to concentrate services in this way.”
Deputy leader Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) insisted that the proposed sale had been flagged up, but added that as predominantly a council office building there was no obligation to consult the community.
“I am willing to make an offer, some concessions,” he said.
He pointed out the education department had initially shown no interest in the building, but as there is severe demand for more school places in the immediate area they would take a detailed look along with nearby schools.
He also agreed that they would look to lease the building, rather than sell, to a community organisation or other public service.
“We are not going to close the library,” he added, “We have also a ten year lease back arrangement to maintain Sparkhill Library in that building, with an automatic right of renewal after that.”
He said that they expect a decision from the education department by mid-February.
With the compromise accepted the Governance and Resources Scrutiny committee did not need to vote on the official challenge to the decision.