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No listed status for main library

23 November 09 14:37 GMT

Birmingham's 1970s central library will not be given listed status, it has been announced.

Culture and Tourism Minister Margaret Hodge said she was not satisfied the building was "really of sufficient architectural or historic interest".

Prince Charles once referred to the building in Chamberlain Square as looking like "a place where books are incinerated, not kept".

Plans for a £193m library in Centenary Square have previously been unveiled.

'Very strong design'

The new Library of Birmingham would be mostly made of glass and partly integrated with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (Rep).

The facility, including public balconies and elevated gardens, is due to open in 2013.

The existing library would get knocked down and there would be shops, restaurants and bars at the site, the city council said.

Ms Hodge said her advisers, English Heritage, felt the current building should be listed, but the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment had a different view.

She said: "The escalators that I went up and down [are] pretty narrow and that might not have been the architect's fault.

"But does that make it a fit-for-purpose building for the 21st Century?"

The Friends of the Birmingham Central Library, which has campaigned to keep the existing library, described the building as "a very good piece of architecture of its time".

Alan Clawley, from the group, said: "It's a very strong design. It took seven years of careful research to design it.

"We're very concerned that she [Ms Hodge] has ignored the advice of English Heritage."

Roger Bowdler, from English Heritage, said the current library was a building of "some distinction and huge ambition".

He said: "We gave our advice to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Ninety-nine percent of the time they agree with what we recommend, but not on this one."

Ms Hodge said she was also issuing a "certificate of immunity from listing", which meant the council has "five years' breathing space to come up with a new use for the site".

Council leader Mike Whitby said: "We are delighted that government has granted our application for 'immunity from listing' for the Central Library, giving us a major boost in our plans to regenerate the city.

"Now, our vision around a new world-class library and theatre will be enriching transformational change in the heart of the city."

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