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De Stefano's Birmingham skyscraper 'gets the chop'

Chicago-based De Stefano + Partners' £400 million plans to build Europe's tallest skyscraper in Birmingham have been drastically cut back by the developer. The original landmark scheme at Arena Central was designed to reach 50 storeys, overtaking Cesar Pelli's One Canada Square. But new plans are likely to go no higher than 25 floors.

Developer the Miller Group believes that interest in 'landmark' buildings has waned since 11 September, with fewer companies wanting to take space in skyscrapers. And it has decided that business circumstances have changed in the city since the first proposal, and is no longer prepared to take the risk of a major tower.

The group's director, Andrew Sutherland, said that realism has taken over the property market.

'The original designs were aspirational. We are just determined now that we should get something built, ' he said.

The Miller Group is also expected to drop De Stefano + Partners from the scheme and to replace it with a UK architect. The developer has become frustrated with the US practice and British construction and planning regulations. And it is also preparing to dump its local joint venture partner, Hampton Court, and take sole control of the scheme. 'We have been seriously frustrated about the speed of progress so far and want to do something about it, ' Sutherland said.

The original design for the UK's first mixed-use tower won planning permission in February 2000, but delays with the project's finances have hindered its construction. HOK International drew up the original masterplan for the site.

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