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Classicists mount fight in Brum

Birmingham's Civic Society has launched an offensive to block the use of Modernist architecture on a key site in the city centre.

The conservation group is lobbying for the adoption of its own Classical scheme, designed by John Simpson, for a major reworking of Paradise Circus.

The development, which will create more than 185,000m2 of office space, has taken on a fresh urgency for the council, which needs to find additional funds to realise Richard Rogers Partnership's plans for a new city library.

And the Civic Society is adamant that the planning department's initial outline proposals for the site should be scrapped.

Sketches released by planners to the public in 2000 reveal a series of modern towers that dominate the site.

Stephen Hartland, chair of Birmingham Civic Society's planning committee, said he was keen to see the redevelopment of the misnamed Paradise Circus, which was 'blighted by '70s disasters and '80s mediocrity', as well as 'blessed by Classical buildings' such as Joseph Hanson's 1834 Town Hall.

But Prince's Foundation member Hartland claimed the Simpson scheme would create the necessary amount of commercial space with modern office floorplates built behind Classical facades 'more complementary' to the existing Classical architecture.

'We are not against the Modern movement per se, but we are against that on this site, ' Hartland said. 'What should go here should complement it.

'We've tried to put forward the argument that Classicism still has a role today. It doesn't have to be a one-size-fits-all Modernist approach.We want to move away from saying it should be Modernist all the time. We shouldn't discount one particular style because it has its roots in the past, ' he added.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham council insisted that no firm plans had yet been drawn up for the site, and any masterplan proposals would be open to public consultation.

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