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Reid anger as Brum blocks plans

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Reid Architecture has come to blows with Birmingham City Council over its approach to redeveloping the city's historic Jewellery Quarter.

Practice director Tom Hewitt believes the council must rethink its planning policy if the area is to be transformed successfully.

Hewitt launched his attack after the council's planning committee turned down Reid's proposals for a £5 million mixeduse scheme within the conservation area.

'City planners are stifling the regeneration of the quarter with their current policy, ' said Hewitt.

'It is a source of constant frustration. We have been in this area ourselves for 15 years and seen very little change.

'Everything has to be fourstorey, non-residential and made of brick. I know it is a contentious site but I thought we would be given some latitude.' With seven storeys, Hewitt feels Reid's Caroline Street scheme would have created a 'landmark building'. However, he blames the heritage lobby and a minefield of differing policies for the scheme's refusal.

'There seem to be lots of different, conflicting policies, ' he said. 'The area has got real cultural significance and I understand the desire to protect its legacy. But in reality I could find 20 buildings that are falling down and will never get regenerated.

'The pendulum has swung one way and then the other, but now it is very much to the side of conservatism. I wonder whether this approach will ever lead to the regeneration of the area, ' Hewitt added.

Hewitt's comments have been supported by Malcolm Gloster, a partner with property consultant GVA Grimley.

'There needs to be more flexibility within the planning regime, allowing historic buildings to be sympathetically renovated alongside the redevelopment of new buildings of high architectural quality, ' he said.

However, a spokesman for the council maintained that it was committed to encouraging new development in the area.

'Far from discouraging residential applications, the city council has approved a total of 2,167 residential units since 1998, ' he said. 'However, all new development must be sympathetic and respond to the surroundings.

'There were pre-application discussions with this developer, where it was made clear that the proposed development did not conform to local guidance in terms of its scale, height and massing, ' the spokesman added.

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