Office conversion scheme comes under fire

Honeywell House

Plans to convert a former Birmingham City Council office building into apartments has come under fire from the authority’s own councillors.

Birmingham-based developer SevenCapital is behind the scheme to convert the former Honeywell House block in Erdington into 85 apartments.

The scheme is permitted under Government planning legislation which aims to reuse existing offices for residential use to ease the demand on new homes.

Internal layout plans show 69 one-bed apartments and 16 two-bed apartments.

The local authority can only mitigate the impact of the scheme on grounds of transport and highways impact, contamination and flooding risks, and noise from surrounding commercial premises.

The plans have therefore gained consent from the city’s planning committee, even though many councillors were critical of the scheme, claiming the apartments will be tiny and the conversion will make existing parking problems in the area even worse.

The council had not been expecting to determine the application as the building had been earmarked for demolition as part of a new supermarket development by Sainsbury’s.

However, when the retailer pulled out of the scheme the site was acquired by SevenCapital and the developer has now earmarked the 5.5-acre site – which also includes a former Colliers car dealership – as a mixed-use residential and commercial scheme.

One aspect of the scheme which troubled the councillors on the committee was that the car park previously used to serve the office block has been developed as the site of a new leisure centre.

They claimed that the 20 spaces allotted for the residential scheme would be insufficient to meet demand.

The design of the building, which is essentially a 1960s office block, also made the conversion to apartments difficult, they added.

Cllr Barry Henley, who has recently criticised the style of accommodation at the new Icknield Port Loop scheme, said the legacy of the offices meant the apartments would be 4sqm below the permitted size of new apartments.

“Your bed is going to be backed up against the wall of someone’s TV. It’s disgraceful,” he said.

“It’s going to be noisy and cramped and I hope they can’t sell them, but I suspect they will.”