Locally-listed landmark to be demolished for 1,750-unit BTR scheme

Smallbrook Queensway images from Corstorphine+Wright

Controversial plans for the redevelopment of Smallbrook Ringway Centre have been approved today by Birmingham City Council.

Developer CEG has been given the go-ahead with seven votes to four to demolish the iconic building on Grade B-listed land and up to 1,750 build-to-rent apartments across 44, 48 and 56 storeys in its place.

Despite being granted approval at the end of September for the scheme, the council had to review plans following a campaign from the Save Smallbrook group, which hired Estelle Dehon, a leading KC with Cornerstone Barristers to legally challenge the decision.

Now CEG will deliver the first phase – the demolition of the three existing buildings starting in May and the first proposed 547-unit tower.

The first building, SBQ 3, would comprise 245 one-beds, 270 two-beds, and 32 three-bed apartments. SBQ 1 and SBQ 2 propose another 1,085 apartments in 44 and 56-storey towers.

15% of affordable housing provision will be topped up to 20% in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority. The majority of these will be three-bedroom family homes at a 30% discount.

Around 95% of the building’s existing fabric will be recycled, with the remaining 5% composed of asbestos and other materials that cannot be re-used.

CEG says the scheme achieves the ‘RIBA 2030 Challenge’ for embodied carbon together with the standards of ‘Future Homes’ and BREAM ‘excellent’ and will include features such as heat pumps, heat recovery, and solar panel technology.

It also says the redevelopment will “break the concrete collar that has divided Southside, Chinatown, the Gay Village” and promises £6m of public realm improvements to do so. Three landscaped public thoroughfares and a dedicated home for two Foo Dogs – traditional Chinese statues – will establish a gateway to Chinatown and the theatre district.

Although the outline proposals would mean the scheme has a total of 1,635 units, the overall hybrid planning application is seeking planning permission for a total of up to 1,750 units. There would also be up to 76,000 sq ft of commercial floor space.

James Shimwell, Head of Residential Development at CEG, said: “We are delighted the Planning Committee has once again supported our proposal to transform the Smallbrook Queenway Buildings for the benefit of the whole city centre. Work will begin as soon as possible to clear the site and deliver the new homes and public spaces that Birmingham so desperately

“We are grateful to BCC’s Officers, members of the Planning Committee, and the local business community for their thoughtful consideration of this vital scheme. Having now twice supported the scheme through the appropriate process, the Council has made a clear and unambiguous statement that the city is open to investment that revitalises the city centre and benefits everyone”.

Pressure was applied to the council by the Save Smallbrook campaign group, which comprises Brutiful Birmingham, Birmingham Modernist Society, The Twentieth Century Society and Birmingham’s Zero Carbon House.

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud had waded into the debate, backing the campaign to save the “beautifully built” Ringway Centre.

Twentieth Century Society (C20), placed Smallbrook Ringway on its 2023 Risk List of the top 10 buildings in the UK most under threat.

The C20 said on Twitter/X: “This is the wrong decision for the city’s heritage, environment, businesses and residents”.

C20 has been contacted for comment with no response received.

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