Birmingham’s historic Ringway Centre, a brutalist landmark, has been granted a reprieve from the wrecking ball.

Following strong opposition from campaigners and potential legal challenges, the city council will re-evaluate the plans to demolish the building and replace it with three towering apartment blocks.

The decision to raze the largely unoccupied building in September 2023 sparked outrage among heritage advocates. They argued that the building, with its “iconic, sweeping curves,” represents a significant chapter in Birmingham’s history and embodies the city’s industrial past.

In a last-minute plea to the council committee, Birmingham architect John Christophers, appearing on behalf of the ‘Save The Ringway Centre’ group, said: “We care about the future of this city and this application must be refused for our heritage, our homes and climate.

“Its iconic, sweeping curves embody the confidence of this city, the centre of the motor industry in 1962.”

An artist's impression of what the redesigned site would look likeCommercial Estates Group
An artist’s impression of what the redesigned site would look like

Developer Commercial Estates Group is set to build 1,750 flats in its place. The proposals were passed by the city council planning committee in an narrow vote of seven to six in favour of the development.

Concerns have since been raised about the compatibility of the demolition with the city’s climate pledges, and the development is now due to be considered again at a planning committee meeting on 1 February.

The Save Smallbrook campaign group, spearheaded by a barrister, challenged the decision on two fronts: potential procedural flaws and the misleading information presented regarding the demolition’s environmental impact.

While the council acknowledged concerns raised by Heritage England, it maintained that government policies didn’t prioritise preservation and the decision wasn’t legally flawed.

Birmingham Ringway Centre is an iconic example of Birmingham's brutalist architecture Southside District
Birmingham Ringway Centre is an iconic example of Birmingham’s brutalist architecture

“Historic England raised concerns, which is quite common,” a council report released in advance of the meeting said. “But that falls a long way short of an actual objection.”

The upcoming planning committee meeting will likely be a pivotal moment for the Ringway Centre’s future, determining whether the existing structure will be repurposed to preserve heritage; or whether demolition plans will be approved, paving the way for the construction of completely new apartment blocks.

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