The Victorian Society comments ‘should not be brushed aside’ says judge in Birmingham skyscraper challenge

Proposed high-rise development raises major concerns over the impact on Birmingham’s historic buildings.

The Victorian Society is delighted that the High Court has clearly stated that its views ‘should not be brushed aside’ in the course of granting permission for a ground for Judicial Review of Birmingham City Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a 51 storey building next to listed Victorian buildings in a conservation area. The decision sends a clear message to planning departments that the society’s views must be delivered to planning committees to inform their decisions.

In a recent hearing, Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the Council’s failure to report the The Victorian Society’s formal objection to the development to members of its Planning Committee was an additional ground for judicial review of the permission.She stated that theexpertise and views of the Society were important and ‘should not be brushed aside’.Its views about the harm to heritage assets, which went beyond the concerns raised by Historic England, should have been drawn to the attention of members of the Planning Committee. Other grounds for review include the Council failing to both properly consult Historic England and apply their advice. These grounds for review will be subject to a further hearing on a date yet to be fixed.

The permission under review is for a 51 storey tower together with a 15/16 storey tower for residential use on the site of the former CEAC Building on the corner of Jennens Road and James Watt Queensway. The site is close to a number of listed Victorian and Edwardian buildings including notably the Grade I-listed Curzon Street Station, the Grade I-listed Victoria Law Courts, and the Grade II*-listed former Methodist Central Hall.

Tim Bridges, The Victorian Society Conservation Adviser,states, ‘Whilst we have no objection to the principle of redevelopment of this site, a tower of the scale and height at 51 storeys proposed in this location will have a negative impact on the character and appearance of the listed Victorian and Edwardian buildings nearby.’

Joe O’Donnell, The Victorian Society Director said:The High Court’s restatement of the importance of our role in the planning system is extremely powerful and helpful. Local Authorities should take our considered advice seriously. Our advice is needed more than ever as given the cuts to local authority conservation staff numbers in recent years. At a time when the society’s finances are challenged by Covid-19, I hope more people will join us so we can offer even more vital high-quality conservation advice. We look forward to the outcome of the judicial review’.



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