LONG-ANTICIPATED plans to redevelop the Powergen site have been dealt a blow this week after revelations it could become a ‘listed’ building.
An online petition has been launched calling for the site, which has been derelict for more than 20 years, to be protected and an application has been made to Historic England to ‘list’ building – which, if successful, would force the current proposed developments to be halted.
The petition argues the former headquarters for Britain’s post-war National Electricity Generator should be protected on account of it being the last public building designed by “Birmingham’s most significant modernist architect”, John Madin, still standing.
And with representatives from Historic England having visited the Shirley site to decide whether it warranted ‘listing’, fears are growing that residents may be stuck with the ‘eyesore’ for years to come.
In a letter to the CEO of Historic England, Solihull MP Julian Knight argues that as other Madin buildings – including Birmingham Central Library and the West Bromwich Police headquarters – had been permitted to be demolished, there is no precedent of the architect’s reputation alone being enough to halt development works.
Speaking to The Observer, Mr Knight added: “In my opinion, 20 years for a potential alternative user of the existing structure is more than enough time to allow parties to give it consideration.
“It is utterly ridiculous for an unelected quango to ignore the wishes of local people and endanger potentially hundreds of jobs and homes and a key project to regenerate our Shirley.
“To suggest that this wreck of a building should remain to rot and blight the lives of my constituents just shows how out of touch some people really are.
“The Powergen eyesore needs to come down.”
Robert Birch of Shirley Advance echoed the newly elected MP’s calls, arguing that the retention of the building would fly in the face of many Shirley residents who would be ‘devastated’ if it were to remain standing.
Mr Birch went on to say that this latest development would not delay or deter Shirley Advance from submitting their planning application for a retirement village and 113 new homes to Solihull Council in the coming weeks.
But Coun Howard Allen is concerned that these conversations are years overdue and argues any conversations about ‘listing’ the Powergen building should have been had 10 years ago when plans for Parkgate were first discussed.
The Green Party Councillor for the Shirley West ward said he signed the petition not because he agrees the site warrants saving, but as a means to highlight the ‘need for open conversations’ with Shirley residents.
He added: “I 100 per cent want to see regeneration to the area, but again the people of Shirley have not been properly consulted and again have to deal with the disruption.
“I am in no way an expert on historic buildings so I’m not making a comment on whether the building is worthy of saving.
“But my main concern is that it is now very late in the day to be having these discussions and that decisions are being rushed through because they were not considered 10 years ago.”