Birmingham City Council to reconsider demolition of Brutalist landmark

Reacting to the news, Mary Keating, from Bruitful Birmingham, one of the groups behind Save Smallbrook, said: ‘We are delighted that the planning department has listened to our concerns.

Voting against the application, Brooks added that CEG’s proposal ‘wasn’t good enough to warrant the damage’ it would cause.

Along with the Birmingham Modernist Society and others, the C20 had put forward an alternative scheme, Re-Imagining Smallbrook Ringway: A Counter-Proposal for Adaptive Re-use, which envisages 450 mixed-sized homes, three new 20-storey towers mimicking the Rotunda building and two new passageways cutting through the building to connect nearby Dudley Street and Wrottesley Street with Smallbrook Queensway, an inner-city ring road.

Source:Corstophine & Wright

In a letter to Ian MacLeod, director of planning, transport and sustainability for Birmingham City Council, Dehon claimed that planning officers had misled the committee over the environmental impact of the proposal in terms of up-front carbon emissions.

Before September’s meeting, Twentieth Century Society  (C20) caseworker Coco Whittaker had reminded the city council of its declaration of climate emergency in 2019.

Save Smallbrook, a group made up of the groups including the Twentieth Century Society and backed by leading architectural figures including Peter St John, Níall McLaughlin, Steve Tompkins, Sara Edmonds, Imandeep Kaur and John Christophers, employed barrister Estelle Dehon KC to examine the way the decision to approve the project to build three tall towers up to 56 storeys high on the site of the 1962 building had been made.

The replacement scheme, designed by Corstorphine & Wright for developer CEG, involves the replacement of the locally listed structure and was voted through by seven votes to six by the planning committee in September.

An amended officers’ report will be presented to the council’s planning committee early in the New Year after a coalition of campaigners known as Save Smallbrook claimed planning officers had misrepresented aspects of the application.

‘It’s essential that officers accurately represent the views of heritage experts and fully understand the steps that need to be taken now in order to become carbon-neutral by 2030.

Birmingham City Council and CEG have been approached for comment.


Furthermore, Dehon wrote, they had not properly represented Historic England by claiming it had ‘no concerns’ about the application. Historic England had, in fact, acknowledged the Ringway Centre’s architectural and historic merit.

She said: ‘The Ringway Centre is a striking and robust historic building, which could easily be repurposed to become a real asset for the city.

‘This provision could take 14 years to complete and will not meet the needs of families who desperately need homes now. Above all, councils need to listen to the people they serve and we are delighted that Birmingham City Council has shown itself to be a listening council by taking these concerns on board.’

Although some councillors at the September meeting had described the Ringway as ugly and ‘old and outdated’, the committee chair, Martin Brooks, warned councillors to be careful about making a decision based on aesthetic opinions, referring to the Birmingham: Pevsner Architectural Guide, in which the six-storey curved block is described as ‘the best piece of mid-20th-century urban design in the city’.

Corstorphine & Wright’s designs for Smallbrook Queensway. Birmingham (approved 28 September)

‘Quite rightly, councillors need to think about meeting the city’s major housing needs. However, the number of “affordable” properties in this development is derisory.

‘We simply should not be bulldozing perfectly good buildings like this, particularly when they have clear heritage value, as is the case here.’