THE INFAMOUS Powergen site in Shirley is facing demolition after controversial plans to have it recognised as a ‘listed’ building have been rejected.
Historic England, the body in charge of protecting historic and valuable buildings, have dismissed calls from petitioners to ‘list’ the building on account of it being the last public building designed by ‘Birmingham’s most significant modernist architect’ John Madin to still be standing.
If successful, the listing would have halted the current proposal for the building, which has been derelict for more than 20 years, to be transformed into a retirement village as part of the Parkgate development.
In the official report from Historic England, officers noted ‘originality and flair’ in the design of the former Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) Headquarters building including concave and convex sides to the buildings and the landscaping of the surrounding grounds to include a reflecting pool.
The report also recognised that the site had received a commendation from the Civic Trust in 1969 for its ‘relative unobtrusiveness’ and as a ‘definite improvement on the commercial and residential area’.
However, Historic England went on to argue that while the site – which is formed of three separate buildings – had been ‘thoughtfully planned’, the building’s current state of disrepair did not warrant its ‘listing’.
Drawing specific attention to the four air conditioning plant tubes and telephone mast on the roof, officers argued that such alterations had not been ‘sympathetic’ to the original design and had caused ‘considerable change’ in its external appearance.
The report concluded: “In summary, the three blocks all either lack, or else have lost those qualities which might give them special interest and they cannot be recommended for statutory designation, either individually or as a group.”
Speaking to The Observer, Solihull MP Julian Knight welcomed the outcome of Historic England’s consultation, describing it as a ‘major victory’ in his campaign and for progress in the redevelopment of the site.
He said: “I am delighted that my hard work and the hard work of my office has help ensure the ridiculous petition, which was signed by the Green Party councillor Howard Allen, has been defeated.
“It was a very tough battle considering the range of out of area voices, but I have been buoyed the tremendous level of support by the people.
“We can see light at the end of the tunnel and the redevelopment of the Powergen site.”
Robert Birch of Shirley Advance echoed the MP’s praise for Historic England’s decision, arguing that it was ‘complete nonsense’ the site had even been considered for ‘listing’.
Mr Birch went on to say Shirley Advance would be submitting its planning application for a retirement village and 113 new homes to Solihull Council in the coming weeks.
Green Party Councillor for the Shirley West ward, Coun Howard Allen, who had previously signed the petition for Historic England to examine the prospect of the Powergen site’s ‘listing’, has now welcomed the prospect of Powergen’s demolition saying residents in Shirley would be happy to see and end to the ‘eyesore’ which has plagued the village for years.
He added: “I am glad that professionals from Historic England have considered the building, as it as a third party looking at the proposals.
“However there are questions that still need to be answered – including why the building was allowed to fall into disrepair when it was owned to the Council and leased to Asda.
“The last concept plans for the site I saw were for a block of retirement flats of a similar height to the Powergen building, which local resident just do not want.
“People talk about the regeneration of Shirley and this site could be perfect for younger people – we already have lots of places for elderly people in the village, but we need to start thinking about the future.”