“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot“
In my previous Birmingham Press article I predicted that serious demolition in Paradise Circus would not start before May. Now, despite several reports in the media that the demolition of the Library was imminent, June is here with no visible sign of demolition anywhere, even on Chamberlain House, the first building likely to be tackled.
Furthermore, the recent sighting of asbestos removal specialists in the basement of the Library suggests that no demolition can begin until they have finished their work. If the northern half of the Central Library is to be demolished as planned and before the Certificate of Immunity expires, work must start on it by the first week in September. However, the contractor’s own Method Statement suggests that work on this part of the site would not begin until week 37 of the programme. If that is the case, there will not be enough time to even start demolishing the Library before the Certificate expires on 10th January.
The Council may ask for more time or an extension of the certificate on the grounds that even though the demolition hasn’t take place a contract has been let and to cancel it now would waste a lot of time and money. They may argue that demolition has actually started although in reality only the furniture and fittings have been stripped out. They may try to show they are serious by doing some token demolition on the Library cladding panels whilst leaving the building fundamentally intact.
These arguments are however legally inadmissible in considering whether the building merits listing or not. The Minister may only take into account its architectural and historic interest, which hasn’t altered fundamentally since English Heritage advised that it met the criteria for listing on two previous occasions. If the building is substantially intact, as it is likely to be on 11 January, then it is a matter for the Minister and his expert advisors to determine if it is merits listing or not at the time an application is received.
Friends of the Central Library has already advised Historic England of its wish to be notified if the Council or anyone else applies for a new Certificate of Immunity to take it beyond the expiry date in anticipation of slippage in the programme. This slippage now seems a distinct possibility. If Historic England ‘forget’ to notify the Friends it is possible that the Council’s application will be dealt with, submitted to the Department of Culture Media and Sport and approved by the Minister without them knowing.
They have therefore written to the Minister in the new government, Ed Vaisey, to appraise him of the situation. They await his response.