The National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham has signed up architect Make to draw up a masterplan for its facilities - but it has missed out on the chance to include a regional casino, writes Vikki Miller.
Ken Shuttleworth's practice has been chosen from a shortlist of five to put forward ideas on how the NEC can be spruced up to stay ahead of foreign competition.
Yet the plans will not now include a regional casino, after Birmingham failed to make a shortlist published by the government this week.
The news, which is a blow to the city's regeneration plans, means that the NEC can only win a much smaller casino, for which it is on a second shortlist. A regional casino would have allowed it to incorporate a customer area of 5000 m² and up to 1250 gaming machines.
A spokesperson from the NEC group said: "We're extremely surprised and disappointed at this decision given the immense strength of the Birmingham/Solihull bid.
"Given that we knew we only ever had a one in 27 chance of securing a regional casino, we have also focused on ensuring that our core businesses were robust and growing healthily. About six months ago, we began looking at a masterplan for the NEC site that encompasses a range of innovative and exciting future additions. We intend to reveal more about this masterplan in September."
Make declined to comment on the proposals, which are shrouded in secrecy. However, a source close to the project said the NEC was taking the potential revamp seriously.
We’re extremely surprised and disappointed at this decision
The NEC, on its casino loss
The source said: "This is a very big deal for the NEC. What Make will be doing is part of an overarching strategy to improve facilities at the venue. It will be an addendum to what is there already. It will allow the NEC to develop its business in a way it is not doing at the moment."
The eight locations on the shortlist for a regional casino licence are Blackpool, the present favourite, as well as Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Cardiff, Glasgow and the London boroughs of Brent and Greenwich.
The NEC bid has been shortlisted for what the government terms "large and small" casinos. The government's Casino Advisory Panel has unveiled a 31-strong shortlist for large and small casinos. This includes: Leeds, Bournemouth, Brighton and Leicester.
Stephen Crow, the chairman of the panel, said the decisions would be discouraging for authorities that had staked their regeneration plans on winning a licence. He said: "I know that our decisions will cause disappointment, not least to authorities who had looked to their casino proposal as a means of alleviating deprivation."
The Department for Culture Media and Sport is set to announce the final winner of the licence by the end of the year.