The £175 million redevelopment of the University of Birmingham, complete with new Olympic-sized 50 metre swimming pool, has been approved by city councillors.
An outline proposal encompassing a total of 21 small and large development projects, which will transform the Edgbaston campus, was approved by the city’s planning committee on Thursday.
Among the plans was a new landmark sports centre set to house Birmingham’s only 50-metre swimming pool and a new library with a “cultural hub” open to the public.
Further plans include the construction of a new multi-storey car park, student halls, teaching blocks, improvements to the campus layout and landscaping and the demolition of some unwanted buildings such as the Gun Barrels pub and Munroe Sports Centre.
A report to the planning committee agreed with the university’s assertion that the development will be a welcome improvement to the campus.
Plans for the sports centre include a swimming pool with seating for up to 240 spectators, a “triple sports hall” which will host national sporting events, as well as a gym where students can take part in activities including fencing, table tennis, martial arts and circuit training.
It will also house squash courts, an indoor climbing wall, dance studios and a wellbeing and high performance research centre.
Case officer Ben Plenty said: “The scheme as a whole would deliver a range of improvements and support facilities that would ensure that this key employer for the city remains competitive and attractive to new students over the coming years.
“The university is of significant importance to the local economy and is of international importance providing value for employment, culture, learning and prestige.
“The new sports centre would replace an unappealing building at an important corner of the site and present a building of good design.”
There have been no objections from formal consultees such as the police, transport authorities, Sport England, English Heritage and conservation groups – although some have asked for assurances or routine conditions to be met such as ensuring wider public access to the sports facilities.
Sport England says it is working with local clubs who currently use the Munroe Centre to ensure they have adequate provision in future.
But several residents associations and 30 individual members of the public have raised objections – particularly over the adequacy of parking and transport arrangements.
The Edgbaston Residents Association, Metchley Park Road Residents Association, Selly Park Property Owners’ Association and many individual objectors all raised fears over the impact of parking on surrounding streets.
Land owner Calthorpe Estates raised further concerns over the quality of the consultation, the lack of an environmental impact assessment and criticises the design as not in keeping with the wider conservation area.
An objection from the Estates representative David Lock Associates read: “The design and architectural approach fails to appreciate, respond to and enhance, the established character of the area.”
But the university insisted that it had submitted the application following “extensive consultation” with both the community and interested parties.
The application is for an outline plan. Further applications for the 21 projects, including detailed design proposals, will need to be submitted and agreed before construction begins.
The council is also set to insist on an commitment from the university that at least 3,400 parking spaces are provided on site at all times and that the existing south car park is not demolished until the new multi-storey is in use.
The university recently secured a £75 million loan from the European Investment Bank to help fund the transformation.
The university played host to the Jamaican Olympic team, including Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, in the weeks running up to the London 2012 games