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New Birmingham central Library

Plans for new Central Library in Birmingham continue to vex Alan Clawley, who believes passionately in the virtues of the existing one. He makes the financial argument for refurbishment.

The Council’s often-repeated claim that it is cheaper to build a new library than refurbish and extend the existing one is based on five year-old projections that have never been updated to take account of the latest design.

In 2004 the cost of building the 36,000 square-metre Library designed by Richards Rodgers on a cleared site in Eastside was said to be between £100 and £154 million.

At the same time the cost of refurbishing the existing Central Library and building a 12,000 square-metre extension for the archives to bring it up to the same size was said to be £166 million.

So it was actually true then to say that building a new library was cheaper than refurbishing and extending the existing one.

At the present time, June 2009, the library being designed on the car park in Centenary Square is said to cost £193 million so the Council cannot possibly claim that that is cheaper than keeping and extending the existing one for £166 million.

But there is more to come.

The new library will only provide, at most, 31,000 square metres of floor space because of the constricted nature of the site, whilst the existing Central Library is still capable of being extended to provide 36,000 square metres, the same as the original Richard Rogers design.

So it would not only be cheaper to refurbish and extend the existing Library but doing so would provide more floor space than the new library into the bargain.

This is not even taking into account any hidden costs of the Centenary Square design, such as the two-year closure of the REP Theatre, the huge disruption of demolishing the existing library and building the new one, and the redesign of Centenary Square itself.

Unless the council disputes these figures it is hard to see how they can still insist that it is cheaper to building a new library than keep the old one?

Birmingham Council are invited to respond via



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