Corstorphine & Wright-designed plans to replace 1960s landmark with three towers up to 56 storeys

Plans to demolish Birmingham’s brutalist Ringway Centre and replace it with three towers designed by Corstorphine & Wright have been narrowly approved.

Birmingham councillors voted seven to six to green-light the highly controversial residential-led scheme amid a barrage of objections from campaigners.

The 20th Century Society said the loss of the decision was “another devastating assault on the city’s post-war heritage and a failure of imagination to not renew and repurpose this landmark building.”

The six-storey locally listed building was completed in 1962 and is known for its dramatic sweep along Birmingham’s Inner Ring Road, immediately outside the Bull Ring shopping centre.

Designed by James Roberts, the architect behind Birmingham’s most famous brutalist building, the nearby grade II-listed Rotunda, it was described as “the best piece of mid-20th-century urban design in the city” in the Birmingham: Pevsner Architectural Guide.

The consented plans, submitted by developer CEG, will see two thirds of the building demolished in a first phase of construction and replaced by a 48-storey tower containing 547 flats.

> Also read: Stirling Prize winners back bid to save brutalist landmark in Brum

A second phase would flatten the remainder of the building and erect two further towers of 44 and 56 storeys, consisting of a total of 1,085 homes and 6,400sq m of commercial space.

The Ringway Centre

The Ringway Centre

A ‘meanwhile use’ strategy has been proposed for the part of the site earmarked for the tallest tower if the scheme is delayed, with the preferred option being a small park.

The city’s planning officer’s had recommended the scheme for approval prior to the meeting, describing the scheme as a “high quality” residential development which would make a meaningful contribution towards Birmingham’s housing needs.

Local campaign group Brutiful Birmingham said following yesterday’s committee decision: “Seven councillors on the planning committee made a bad decision today for the future of Birmingham and the PLANET by approving the demolition of the Ringway Centre. 

“Thank you to the six councillors who understood the magnitude of the issues and voted against. It is not over yet.”

The group collaborated with the Birmingham Modernist Society, Zero Carbon House and C20 on a 26-page counterproposal in 2022 which envisaged retaining the building and building three 20-storeys towers above it modelled on The Rotunda.

The plan also proposed improving circulation and public space at the base of the Ringway Centre to counter criticisms that the building acted as a ‘wall’ between the city centre and adjacent areas.

SBQ Counter Proposal 1

Source: Michael Dring

Counter-proposals to repurpose James Roberts’ Ringway Centre in Birmingham with the addition of three new towers

An eight-page assessment submitted by planning consultant Turley with the CEG scheme’s application said the project team had “fully and robustly” tested the feasibility of retaining the Ringway Centre.

The document, written as a direct response to Micahel Gove’s decision to reject Marks & Spencer’s plans to rebuild its flagship Oxford Street store, claimed retention would not be viable as it would require works such as recladding, installing new fire safety measures and repositioning floor plates.

The project team also includes cost consultant RLF, structural and civil engineer Curtins, heritage consultant Montagu Evans, facade engineer Wintech, transport consultant Stantec and acoustic consultant Hoare Lea. The hearing will take place on Thursday.