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“SELL OFF DRIVING LIBRARY DEVLOPMENT”

24-06-2009

Central Library

Birmingham Central Library campaigner Alan Clawley has uncovered new evidence which suggests that – contrary to official pronouncements – the real driver for plans to sell off Birmingham Central Library is the prospect of a lucrative land sale and development.

A new 91-page report by Arup Economics & Planning dated 7 April 2009 and entitled "Birmingham Library Economic Appraisal", has just been released to Friends of the Central Library.

The report's first conclusion, on page 50, is:

"The primary driver for investment in the [library] project is the release of the existing library site at Paradise Circus for redevelopment. The redevelopment of Paradise Circus site is fundamental for the achievement of long-term strategic regeneration plans for Birmingham city centre."

Friends of the Central Library have been saying all along that this is the real reason behind the demolition of the Central Library, but the Council would never admit it in public.

So, it seems, having lost the argument about the condition of the building the council's consultants have obligingly moved the goalposts back to where they were in 1999 as well as reminding us of some other reasons we have heard before.

Drawing heavily on material in The (non-statutory) Big City Plan and its key tenet of "improved connectivity" the Arup report says:

"At present, there are significant problems of permeability/accessibility/connectivity within the city centre, especially between important areas of the city. These include, for example, accessibility to the Jewellery Quarter which lies alongside the Paradise Square [sic] site"

But, hope is at hand. The writers say:

"Improvements have already been made, with parts of the concrete collar being dismantled",

and,

"releasing the Paradise Circus site for redevelopment, will enable the removal of one of the last major parts of this collar to be removed - delivering immediate substantial and broad ranging benefits that will strengthen over time."

Reminding us who is waiting in the wings to deliver the solution Arup’s write:

"Argent have a proposed scheme of redevelopment for the Paradise Circus site which addresses current accessibility and permeability issues through the site. This will unlock the greater potential of site [sic], enabling easier movements of people and opening up new and important visual sightlines (including those to the clock tower. The proposed scheme comprises a mix of uses including significant grade A office space."

Lets hope Argent will show their plans to the public soon so we can see exactly what they mean by permeability/accessibility/connectivity, why the city needs more offices, and why it can't be done without knocking down a working library.

In reading the rest of the report I was disappointed at Arup's concurring so uncritically with the Council's assertion that the Central Library had reached the end of its useful life, especially as it was Arup's distinguished structural engineers who designed it in the first place.

Alan Clawley is Secretary of the Friends of the Central Library. Birmingham Council are offered a right to reply - just contact adriangoldberg@hotmail.com

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