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Thursday24 July 2014

Nicol Thomas faces Birmingham heritage battle

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Conservationists are fighting to stop Nicol Thomas Architects from building a £40 million retirement village in Birmingham because it would destroy a row of fine Victorian and Edwardian villas.

The 2.3ha site is currently home to six large houses dating from the late 1890s to early 1900s. One is the last-surviving house by arts and crafts architect Ernest Barnsley who gave his name to the area. Two others were designed by famous local architect George Henry Devall.

Nicol Thomas has submitted plans to replace them and their sizable gardens with 236 retirement flats in a series of five-storey buildings for client ExtraCare Charitable Trust.

But the Victorian Society and English Heritage are calling for the villas to be saved, arguing that they are a critical part of the Barnsley Road Conservation Area which deserve to be renovated.

Architect and Victorian Society activist Joe Holyoak accused the council of “failing in its duty” to protect the area by allowing them to deteriorate.

He said: “The development would result in the wrecking of a large part of the Barnsley Road Conservation Area. The society expects the planning committee to realise that the proposal is wrong and to reject the scheme.”

The buildings, all fine examples of their type, are part of the history of the city and stand in a prominent position on one of the main approaches to Birmingham from the west, he added.

Birmingham council insisted the new designs would be sympathetic to the original houses.

Meanwhile the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage are fighting to protect a grade II-listed industrial building in the east of Birmingham. Plans have been submitted to demolish the former Christopher Wray building to make way for the wider Eastside regeneration. But there are no current plans for its replacement and campaigners argue it could be converted to form the heart of the new zone.

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