Eleven years after it was first proposed, the £500 million Arena Central project to deliver Birmingham's tallest building has moved a step closer to reality.
The city council cabinet yesterday granted a 250-year lease to the joint venture company behind plans to build a 50-storey tower on the site of the former ATV television studios in Broad Street, opposite the ICC.
It is understood that Arena Central Developments will pay the council a lump sum of about £10 million and a yearly rent for the 7.6-acre site.
ACD will also give a commitment to publish an updated masterplan and develop Arena Central within an "acceptable timescale", according to a report to the cabinet.
The final mixed-use scheme is likely to feature two tall towers, with luxury offices and apartments. The main tower, which has planning permission for 175 metres, would be significantly higher than Beetham Tower, which is 122 metres and has 39 storeys.
Negotiations are to take place between ACD and proposed partner Dandara over the residential element of Arena Central. Yesterday's decision was overshadowed by a dispute about the length of time it is taking to get Arena Central off the ground.
Cabinet regeneration member Ken Hardeman said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which has been running the council since 2004, had managed in the 31 months since it came to power to bring the complex scheme close to delivery.
The previous Labour administration had "dithered" over the future of one of the most significant sites in the city centre, he claimed.
The re-gearing of the lease, from 125 years to 250 years, would give ACD more room for manoeuvre, he said.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the opposition Labour group, said that the blame for the failure to proceed with Arena Central after planning permission was granted in 2000 could not be laid at his administration.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: "It is not a question of dilly-dallying, it is a question of putting together the right financial actions to deliver the hundreds of millions of pounds that this initiative will cost."
Development of the Arena Central site is seen by the council as an essential first step on the way to delivering the £1 billion transformation of the far larger Paradise Circus site. Planners consider that private sector demand for luxury offices planned at Paradise Circus will not become clear until the office element of Arena Central is on the market.
Council leader Mike Whitby said: "When you have to put complex financial packages together they don't normally happen at the press of a button. In this city there are people who appear to be listening, but don't understand how difficult it is to deliver complicated regeneration packages.
"This will be a development that everyone in this city and the region will be proud of. In 31 months we have released the logjam."