Paradise Circus Redevelopment

 2012/05116/PA

Outline planning application (all matters reserved save for access) for demolition of all buildings on the site (save for the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial) and commercial led mixed use redevelopment of up to 170,012 square metres gross internal floorspace, comprising offices (Use Class B1a), retail and leisure units (Use Classes A1/A2/A3/A4/A5/D1/D2), concert hall (D2), energy centre (Sui Generis), together with a hotel of up to 250 bedrooms (Use Class C1), car parking, highways works (to include the closure of eastern arm of Paradise Circus gyratory), public realm improvements and associated works including alterations to public rights of way.

The Paradise Circus redevelopment is a contentious one, mainly due to the presence of the Birmingham Central Library which was designed by John Madin and is set to be demolished if the plans get approved.  Though the building has been recommended for local listing by English Heritage, it has never achieved that status and the council have a Certificate of Immunity order on the building, preventing it from being listed.

The council have established an exclusivity agreement with Argent, who were behind the creation of Brindleyplace, with a view to sign a joint venture relationship for the redevelopment of the site once planning permission has been granted.
Whilst we await the final decision regarding the outline, it was interesting to see how the current plans look from a historical perspective.  As well as seeing how the proposal brings the area back to the public, both from an ease of access routes (especially down Congreve Passage to Summer Row) and also improvements to the public realm with two new squares, and the improvement to Chamberlain Square.

Town Hall and Council House - March 1921 (Britain From Above)

Whilst the future of the Central Library is an evocative topic, it cannot be ignored that the site plan does not facilitate access through it, or around it.  Areas such as Fletchers Walk, Paradise Place towards Summer Row, and Congreve passage are not the most accessible. Looking at the plans it shows that consideration has been given to the pedestrian flow, and there are a lot more ways to navigate across the site.
One of the main changes to the road layout is the closure of eastern arm of Paradise Circus gyratory (i.e the bit that runs under the Library).  There are also quite a lot of roads that would need to be reconfigured because of this.
Recently on 11 October 2012 the council Planning Committee met, and an item on the agenda was to discuss issues related to the planning application [PDF], this revealed some potential S106 planing obligations including:
  • Transport contribution – to include works to facilitate the next phases of Metro and contributions to public transport including Interconnect (new bus shelters and totem signage)
  • Public realm improvements – in particular to Chamberlain Square, Town Hall surroundings and Centenary Square – approximately £2.65m
  • Contributions to Wayfinding signage both into and around the site – £180,000
  • Easy Row subway improvements linking through to Arena Central – approximately £150,000.

National Indoor Arena Refurbishment

 2012/04742/PA

Extension and refurbishment scheme to include enhanced ancillary retail areas (Use classes A1, A3, A4 and A5), external facade works, erection of 3 no. ‘Sky Needles’ signage, landscape and public realm works. 

For those familiar with Brindleyplace the layout of the NIA complex is at odds with the more common access routes to the venue.  If you enter through Brindleyplace you end up walking across the bridges over the canals and ending up at the service area of the venue, and also facing a rather plain looking building.  The approved plans for the refurbishment of the NIA take into account its setting against the canal network, and open up the area through better access whilst also improving the facade.

Set to undergo a £20.6 million transformation, the modernisation of the NIA aims to take advantage of its unique location on the city’s canal side and will feature a new showcase entrance straight from Brindleyplace into the arena, with large glazed views over the water and the city.

Work will get underway in late 2012 and will include improved facilities and a much greater emphasis on both the pre and post show experience. Coupled with an exciting partnership with Barclaycard, the NIA will offer a vastly improved experience for anyone setting foot in the arena.
[Future NIA]

Unfortunately the refurbishment does not encompass the whole exterior of the venue, and the car park around the back will still look odd and dull once this work has finished.

That said the creation of retail/food/drink units fronting the canalside, will certainly help people interact with this side of the building and help improve the public realm in the longer term.