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Forget 51 Storeys, 4 Storeys Is Now Too Tall In The Jewellery Quarter

The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

Birmingham’s tall buildings policy is causing arguments. But few are more heated than one brewing over a mere four storey scheme.

In Digbeth controversy flares like a forest fire if a skyscraper proposal appears in the wrong place or the wrong time. Something over 30 storeys is sure to provoke a fight.

Yet on the other side of the city centre in the Jewellery Quarter, a building of just four storeys is causing a planning panic amidst complaints that it is too tall. The proposal has already been reduced from five storeys.

Proposals for the block on a site at Tenby Street involve 37 apartments over four storeys, as well as 7K SF replacement premises for the jewellery maker Charles Green & Sons, which has been active in the area for six generations.

Yet the plans by Rainier Developments have stirred up doubts in the minds of heritage bodies such as Historic England, the Victorian Society and the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust about the size of a scheme surrounded by listed buildings.

Documents presented to the council’s planning committee reveal a long list of reasons to regard four storeys as too tall.

Historic England pointed out that the Jewellery Quarter Design Guide calls for new buildings to respect the urban context of the site in height and scale with a view to preserving local character and distinctiveness.

The guide sets out a clear limit of four storeys for the scale of new development within the Quarter, Historic England said, but emphasises that, in some contexts, three or even two storeys may be more appropriate, because the neighbouring streets are domestic and exclusively three storeys, with some two storeys.

“This domestic scale is fundamental to the significance of the Quarter in telling the history of its growth out of humble domestic buildings from the late-18th and early-19th centuries,” it added.


Local councillors have also raised objections whilst the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust said the proposals “pose significant harm to the character of the Conservation Area due to … scale, mass, height and building line”.

It also objected to an industrial site for jewellery production being devoted to residential use. “The proposals are for less than 25% commercial uses whereas [local policy] links any residential uses in the Industrial Middle [of the Jewellery Quarter] to no more than 50%,” the trust told councillors.

It added that there is no resident amenity space either indoors or outdoors. 

The dispute seems modest in comparison with the current debates about tall buildings in Digbeth, where Court Collaboration proposals for a 48-storey tower on the Irish Club site have been dubbed “mad” by protesters hoping to protect the Digbeth Deritend and Bordesley Conservation Area.

Meanwhile LaSalle Investment Management is taking the first steps toward legal action against separate Court Collaboration plans for the 51-storey One Eastside build-to-rent apartment tower at James Watt Queensway.