Anything Goes? Skyscraper Policy Confusion As Developers Prepare Towering Prospects For Birmingham BTR
Moda Living’s plans for a 39-storey Birmingham build-to-rent apartment tower have been slated for approval, despite the council admitting the scheme breaches its own planning policy, and despite a blistering thumbs down from Historic England.
The move, in the historic Jewellery Quarter, comes just weeks after planners appeared to suggest that even five storeys was too tall for the conservation area and as Birmingham’s now 17-year-old tall buildings policy awaits a review.
The Moda application is for a roughly 2-acre site at Great Charles Street, Ludgate Hill, Lionel Street and Livery Street within the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area. There will be 722 private rental apartments in three blocks rising to 39 storeys.
An official report to Birmingham city councillors confesses that “the development proposal would be contrary to the development plan, having regard to section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004”.
It adds that the proposals conflict with policies to protect Birmingham’s heritage assets and “that development affecting a designated or non-designated heritage asset or its setting, will be expected to make a positive contribution to its character, appearance and significance. Much of the lower scale development proposed would not cause harm to heritage assets but the height of the tower in particular is considered to cause” a risk, the report states.
Much of the problem is caused by a tall buildings policy that was written in 2003 and existing local plans that suggest buildings in the area should be no more than 15 storeys and should not be in conservation areas.
The scheme is inside one conservation area (Jewellery Quarter) and close to the northern boundary of another (Colmore Row) and the report said that it risks some harm to heritage buildings, which abound in the vicinity including the grade II-listed public toilets within Snow Hill Railway Arch.
Historic England has objected to a proposal of “such colossal height and scale” and said it was “gravely concerned at the impact this large scale development would have on the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area” and on historic buildings, including the city’s cathedral. Historic England noted the building would be nearly twice that of the neighbouring Snow Hill developments “which, even at their 20 storeys, have a considerable presence”.
However, the scheme was recommended for approval, despite these problems, on the basis of its economic contribution and new housing need.